THE recent debate about drug deaths in Scotland has more resembled a concerted attempt at political assassination. Your own recent Herald View ("Blame for drug toll disgrace rests with the Government", The Herald, August 2) was a calumny of misleading argument, including claiming that drug laws being reserved to Westminster was irrelevant. Really? How can this be?

Since health is devolved to Scotland, treatment of drug abusers is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, and statistics suggest that, contrary to much comment in recent days, it actually does rather well. NHS Scotland’s drug treatment service beats its target for treating 90 per cent of patients within three weeks or less, year after year, hitting 95.6% in the year to March 2021.

So, what is the problem? Well, while the Scottish Government is responsible for treatment, Westminster retains control over the policies which determine what can legally be done to save the lives of illegal drug abusers. Thus "safe" or "supervised" injection rooms can be introduced only if Westminster allows it.

Should these be introduced? A review of 349 research studies into their efficacy, carried out by the Centre for Criminology at the University in South Wales in 2017, found that "safe" or "supervised" injection rooms significantly reduced drug-related harms, dramatically cut mortality and offered a range of benefits for the wider population, in terms of reduced crime, nuisance in public spaces, violence and trafficking.

What is Westminster’s view? In 2019 a spokesperson for Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: “There is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms and there are no plans to introduce them.” Try thinking about that in relation to the findings above.

Yet should we be surprised? In 1992, there were 18 persons in Scotland known to be drug-dependent. That rose year on year to 1997 when it reached 142. The response of that Conservative Government was not to treat or support, but to further criminalise users.

The increase continued to 280 in 2002 and 457 in 2007 when the SNP came to power. It is that whirlwind that we are now reaping, but to condemn a Government whose treatment programme to address drug dependence, 30 or more years in developing, meets its targets, but which lacks the capacity to introduce a proven approach used throughout the world, or indeed to amend drug laws, is no better than one-eyed political propaganda.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


I HAVE been following the correspondence and the reports concerning the terrible toll of drug deaths in Scotland ("Action promised to finally tackle ‘heartbreaking’ drug deaths toll", The Herald, July 31, and Letters, July 31 and August 2).

I fully support the need for a greater investment in drug rehab treatment to tackle a very serious health problem.

I also noted that the statistics say that "those in the most deprived parts of Scotland are 18 times more likely to die from drugs than those in affluent areas". However, I could not find the word "prevention" in any of the letters or articles.

During my time in social work, some of the most valuable members of staff were our community workers who worked in our

"deprived" communities getting alongside people, helping them to identify the problems they faced (often related to poverty or

unemployment and the like), but also helping them to identify the strengths they had to find solutions to the issues they faced.

Sadly many of these posts were cut during the time of financial austerity and support withdrawn.

Yes, we do need to invest in rehab, but we should also think in terms of prevention. So often prevention can be part of the cure.

Ron Lavalette, Ardrossan.


SANDY Gemmill (Letters, August 2) is correct that Scotland must prepare for independence. However, the majority of the institutions and infrastructure to govern are in place. We have a Scottish Parliament, health service, police, local government and policy control over key areas including 30 per cent of taxation that encompasses Air Passenger Duty, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Landfill Tax.

UK Government infrastructure, such as HMRC offices in Scotland that collect the remaining 70% of tax that is sent to London, would be transferred to the Scottish Government. The tax collected would stay in Scotland. Employees would be paid by the Scottish Government with Scottish pounds and report to a Scottish minister, rather than a minister in London who charges Scotland for the cost.

Buildings, airbases and land owned in Scotland by the UK Government would, under international precedent, be transferred to the Scottish Government. Military hardware, such as a share of UK nuclear weapons, could be traded for assets that are more appropriate for Scotland, such as aircraft and naval vessels. GERS charges Scotland £3.3 billion a year for UK defence, of which only half is spent in Scotland. An independent Scotland’s military expenditure would be more in line with the £1 billion Ireland spends.

A Scottish central bank and a financial regulatory authority would need to be established. A study by the LSE concluded that nearly 7,000 public sector jobs would need to be created or transferred to Scotland to build the necessary infrastructure, jobs that will contribute millions in tax and national insurance to the Scottish Treasury.

The Scottish Government must clearly communicate these advantages to show that we will be able to hit the ground running on Independence Day.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.


HERE we go again. Nicola Sturgeon is going to announce a new push for independence at the party conference next month. Like all previous calls for independence, the upcoming one is to have caveats attached such as "at the earliest moment" and once there is a "clear gap" from the end of the coronavirus outbreak.

Most Scots have now lost count of the number of times a new referendum has been called for but never acted upon. In case the SNP has not noticed, Scotland has huge problems right now. No need to list them, we all know what they are. Where is the hard factual evidence that the solution to all of Scotland's problems is independence?

No political party ought to be suggesting a course of action that has such unimaginable potential consequences for the entire population. This is simply adding another layer of damage to what will be a difficult climb out of the effects of the pandemic for Scotland.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


CRAIG Murray is beginning a jail sentence for contempt of court in relation to the Alex Salmond case ("Salmond blogger hands himself in to police", The Herald, August 2). The rights and wrongs of whether he merits such a penalty are being debated. Meanwhile, Mr Murray confirms his reputation as a conspiracy theorist by claiming: "The hands of the British state are all over this", the reason being that Mr Salmond, whose admirer he is, was seen as "one of the biggest threats in 300 years" to the British state. This line of argument is hard to fathom. Mr Salmond lost his seat as an MP in 2017 and held no political post until founding the Alba Party in 2021. How was he posing a threat to the British state? In 2014, perhaps, but not in 2017-21, the critical years in the Salmond case and its aftermath.

Further, both Mr Salmond and Mr Murray were charged under Scots law in Scottish courts by Scottish judges. I can see that Mr Murray might well blame the SNP leadership for his predicament, but he has produced no evidence to indicate involvement by the British state. Mr Salmond’s case and his own have been entirely "Made in Scotland".

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


I NOTE with interest your article regarding Government funding to tackle isolation and loneliness ("Groups share £1m Government funding to tackle isolation and loneliness", The Herald, July 31).

It reminds me of the elderly woman I met sitting on a bench in the square in my village. I got talking to her and discovered that her husband had died before Christmas 2020. Her family had sold her house, and moved her into a residential complex with a warden.

She was pleased to live among other people of a similar age, with a warden if there were any problems. But unfortunately, the sitting room where normally residents go to socialise was closed due to Covid. So despite having lived there since last December, she knows nobody. If she meets anybody in the corridor, they keep their distance, so that she has had no opportunity to make any friends. She is reduced to sitting on a bench every day, rain or shine, hoping somebody will chat to her as they go by.

What sort of crazy rules condemn a sitting room in a retirement complex to be closed, so that people are driven mad by isolation despite being surrounded by people?

Margaret Forbes, Kilmacolm.

Read more: Finally, we can see that there is no substance to the SNP