THE CAPACITY of rehab beds will be expanded as part of £18 million of funding to help solve Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis.

Minister for Drugs Policy, Angela Constance, confirmed allocation of four new funding streams totalling £18 million from £250 million already announced by Nicola Sturgeon to help tackle the drugs deaths emergency over the next five years.

Scotland remains the drugs death capital of Europe with figures released in December showing that more than 1,200 died in Scotland from drugs misuse in the last year.

The expanded projects will provide tailored support for women, families and children as well as expand the number of rehabilitation beds available.

A £5 million communities fund will provide resources to community and third-sector groups to increase capacity for their services, while a £5 million improvement fund will bolster outreach, treatment, rehab and aftercare support for women.

Ministers have also announced a £3 million families and children fund to better support families of those impacted by drug addiction and a £5 million recovery fund for extra residential rehab capacity.

In a Holyrood debate on tackling the drugs death problem, Ms Constance stressed “we need to be informed by those who have the greatest understand and greatest experience in everything we do”, pointing to “local panels” made up of those with lived experience to be set up to inform solutions.

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She said: “We have said a national mission is needed to tackle the drug deaths emergency and this coming year will see funding for alcohol and drugs support increasing to £140.7 million.

“This latest round of funding sees us build on the £1 million communities fund and £1 million improvement fund we launched in February. We want to make additional resources available to more community and third sector organisations so that we can support more people into treatment and offer support to their families.

“I am pleased we are also able to direct more funding to develop services specifically for women and children. We want to make it easier for women to access treatment by removing any barriers such as a lack of childcare.”

Ms Constance added: “I have already committed to taking action on the recommendations from the residential rehabilitation working group and this will be backed by £100 million over the next five years.

“We recognise residential rehabilitation may not be for everyone which is why we are determined, as part of our national mission, to make sure that people can access whatever treatment is right for them in the right place at the right time.”

Pointing to the expanded rehab capacity fund, Ms Constance said the policy will also "support people financially through residential rehabilitation”.

She added: “We know that because of the lack of clarity in housing benefit guidance, there are some local authorities who do not allow people to retain tenancies funded by housing benefit while they are in rehabilitation.

“We cannot ask people to make impossible choices between their tenancy and their recovery journey. This fund will help ensure that this no longer happens.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesperson, Donald Cameron said the Scottish Government needs to “start properly-funding" services.

He added that “more funding is required across a range of areas to prevent drug use”.

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Mr Cameron pointed to the UK Government's drugs summit held in Glasgow last year with an “intention of boosting collaboration”.

He added: “We need more of that cross-government collaboration, not less.

“I hope the Scottish Government re-considers whether it will sign up to project Adder, a UK-wide initiative to fund extra resources for law enforcement to dismantle organised criminal gangs and tackle the supply of drugs while also investing money into drug treatment and recovery programmes.

“There are no shortcut solutions to the drugs crisis that is gripping Scotland. It’s clear we need greater investment in prevention and treatment and we need braver and bolder policy to tackle the core causes of drug use.”

Labour's Neil Findlay, in his last Holyrood speech, told MSPs "we need a revolution in drugs policy".

He added that "if we don't, bodies will pile up higher and higher and higher".

He said: "The Government cut the drugs budget and wondered why deaths rose.

"Working class lives are ending unnecessarily because of a failed drugs policy."

The Liberal Democrats proposed a motion backing the principle of drug decriminalisation for the first time – saying a commitment from outgoing MSPs would be “difficult to ignore”.

The party’s justice spokesperson, Liam McArthur, said: "People are dying preventable deaths three, four, five, maybe even six decades before their time. The pain felt by families and friends will still be so raw. Parliament owes it them to drop any lingering excuses. There are none.

"People found in possession of drugs for personal use should be diverted into treatment. Prison is not the place for vulnerable people gripped by addiction. Target the dealers but get people into treatment.

"Police officers have spoken about feeling hopeless and helpless. They are urging us to have courage because they see people going into the criminal justice system and ending up dead.

"It will always be for the incoming government to take forward its agenda. But such a statement in favour of decriminalisation from the outgoing Parliament would be difficult to ignore.”

Greens health spokesperson, Alison Johnstone, pointed to a “national commitment to deal with drugs deaths”, warning that “access to treatment must be improved”.

Ms Johnstone backed the decriminalisation policy, warning “this is a public health emergency”, adding that “we can’t arrest our way out the drugs death crisis”.

CEO of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Justina Murray, said: “There is an urgent need to improve support for children, young people and adult family members - all of whom are harmed by others’ alcohol and drug use, and all of whom have faced even bigger harms during the Covid pandemic.

“We know most family members remain hidden due to the stigma, shame and secrecy of substance use in the family, along with the lack of visible, high quality family support across Scotland.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and with families to transform this situation, so that every family member in Scotland can reach the support they need, regardless of their situation or location.”