NICOLA Sturgeon is now personally involved in addressing Scotland’s horrendous levels of drug-related deaths, 1,264 at the last count ("Sturgeon announces £250m to tackle drug deaths ‘disgrace’", The Herald, January 21).

Again and again the media headline this horror story, and the Government reacts as always, throwing money at it. The funding is always for short-term and for minimalist solutions, which only address a tiny part of the problem. People with undiagnosed mental health issues continue to self-medicate on alcohol and drugs because they are in great pain. They endure the stress and burden of living in poverty, jobless, purposeless, and trying just to survive another day, in our most deprived communities, where governments of all persuasions have failed miserably to improve people’s lives.

This time, the emphasis is to be on more money for residential rehabilitation beds in expensive, often private clinics. Forty years of involvement in this issue tells me that upmarket, private residential rehab does work, to get a tiny number of the 65,000 addicts off their drug use – but it only works for a minority. For most addicts, getting off drugs in the luxury of a rehab clinic is the easy bit. After getting clean of drugs, they return to the same deprived communities, with the same undiagnosed mental health problems, and are back where they started. They continue to live in poverty, with no jobs, no purpose, and in communities that are the target of the gangsters supplying drugs. This is no solution to Scotland’s awful drug problem. Celebrities like Elton John or Russell Brand can return from private drug clinics to pick up and carry on their lucrative careers. It is a luxury denied those living in our deprived communities.

What we do need is the safe drug injection facilities as are currently being provided illegally by a lone charitable campaigner in Glasgow. We need massive mental health intervention services to support the traumatised individuals, who were driven into addiction by adverse childhood experiences, that drove them to self-medicate on pain killer illicit drugs. Recovering addicts need access to housing, jobs and medicinal heroin and many other treatments so far denied them by Westminster drug policies. Young addicts need a specialist service, but none exist to my knowledge.

My plea is that our First Minister does what she is good at, listening to the experts, which in this instance must include the drug users, their families and the thousands of those supporting them, to find multiple, workable solutions. We must also look deep into the legal restrictions which so far have prevented the Scottish Government from daring to take actions that could have long ago prevented the needless deaths of so many drug users..

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow G12.


HAVING digested your article on Nicola Sturgeon's response to the drugs crisis, I immediately read the Scottish Parliament Official Report – surely it wasn't possible that Ms Sturgeon, First Minister, former Health Secretary, head of the Scottish Government and the party that's been in power for the last 13 years, was describing her own record on tackling drugs deaths, where thousands have died, as a "national disgrace"? But that is precisely how the First Minister did characterise the performance of her party in government. As criticism goes, it is a damning indictment. As I write, Ms Sturgeon is still in office and there's no sign of any form of punishment or accountability being meted out as a result of her admission of complete failure.

It feels that we are now "through the looking glass" – the opposition parties in Scotland are so ineffective and powerless to do anything that it falls to Ms Sturgeon to condemn her own performance on their behalf, and then carry on without fear of repercussion. Ms Sturgeon set a test for parliament and parliament failed that test. The First Minister tested just how badly she and her party can perform without actually being held accountable in a meaningful way. She now knows that no matter how badly she runs the country or how many people die as a result, she can continue governing like this with impunity.

It seems wherever one looks, the SNP Government is mired in scandal, controversy, failure and incompetence and now only a vote at the ballot box can stop this state of affairs, since any effective opposition in parliament has long since left the park.

Jamie Black, Largs.


I WISH people would stop referring to Scotland being “given money; funded by; supported by” the UK Government. The UK Treasury prints money, or borrows money and allocates some of that money to Scotland. It is not a gift. It has to be paid back by Scottish taxes, or future cuts to Scotland’s budget allocation.

Scotland has no say in this transaction: on whether the sum of money is appropriate to our needs, or on issues of timing. Every self-governing country from Austria to Australia is going through the same “borrowing” process, except all of them, unlike Scotland, do it in a manner suitable to their needs.

The money owed by the UK is now in the trillions, with not a penny of it directly borrowed by Scotland. As we discovered in 2014, this debt is “owned” by the Treasury, and in the event of Scottish independence, unless an agreement on splitting assets and liabilities is reached, that debt stays where it is.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


THE SNP panto season is in full swing seemingly.

The ice sensors on the Queensferry Crossing? Aren’t they fixed yet? Oh yes, they are. Oh no, they're not (for the fourth time in three years) and nor is the new Arran ferry, to name but two failures on the SNP report card.

These are the things that should be sending shivers down the spines of the Scottish population. If the SNP administration cannot get these relatively straightforward infrastructure tasks right, what hope is there that it could successfully run this country in the disastrous event of independence?

The SNP needs to take a reality check as to exactly what are the pressing priorities for this wonderful country. What would the financial cost of independence be; to pay off our share of the UK National debt, to set up a new currency, and to set up the myriad of national agencies that would be required of an independent country, to establish and maintain an effective defence force, border and fishery protection? The list is endless.

Nor should we forget that in the event that our First Minister were to depart the political scene for whatever reason, who could you see as a natural, competent successor? The mind boggles. What was that about taking a reality check?

Colin Allison, Blairgowrie.


THE Deputy Chief Constable of Police Scotland has told the Salmond inquiry at Holyrood that the Scottish Government ignored police advice in drawing up its ill-fated harassment legislation ("Inquiry told of approach to police", The Herald, January 22). The police view was that alleged Civil Service victims of harassment should "be directed to the relevant support services" rather than to the police.

In spite of being told this, the head of the Civil Service, presumably with the knowledge and support of the First Minister, insisted that complainants’ issues be reported to the police, against the the complainants’ wishes. The Holyrood committee needs to find out why this course of action was followed and why explicit police advice was ignored.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.


DOUG Maughan (Letters, January 21) wants Donald Trump to be held accountable, though he fails to specify for what.

The alleged crimes of Idi Amin and Mengistu, whom he mentions, were specifically identified when they were in power. His attempt to smear Donald Trump by association with names like these is transparently absurd. Suggesting he might be offered refuge in Russia or North Korea is equally ludicrous.

Mr Trump’s first impeachment turned out to be a hoax fuelled by dishonourable people in high places, none of whom have been held to account, so far. His second impeachment is unconstitutional and engineered by the same hypocritical politicians who were cheerleaders during the disgraceful summer of mayhem in Democrat-controlled cities. That violence, looting and burning claimed more than 40 American lives. It included an attack on the White House and other federal buildings, though the word insurrection was never deployed then.

If Mr Maughan wants to vilify Mr Trump, he should at least be able to identify what it was specifically that the former President did wrong. I predict that one day the truth will blossom like a spring flower and we might even see the cancel culture challenged by the R&A nominating Turnberry as an Open venue once more.

John McArthur, Glasgow G73.