NEW figures show there were 722 suspected drug deaths in the first six months of 2021 ("2021 suspected drug death toll is ‘appalling’, admits minister", The Herald, September 15). The headlines say this is appalling, but in fact it is a slight improvement, as one per cent (nine) fewer people have died from drugs than for the same period in 2020. There is more good news too, as there were only 35 such deaths of those under the age of 25, representing a drop of 14 young deaths from a year ago. Even this tiny bit of progress is good news to all but the Conservatives it seems.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross never misses a chance to repeat his mantra that Nicola Sturgeon has taken her eye off the ball, as he demands instant access to residential rehabilitation for all drug addicts. Now Sue Webber, the Scottish Conservative’s new spokesperson on drugs, churns out the same message. Clearly the Tories have taken their eyes off the ball as they have not noticed that Angela Constance, Minister for Drugs Policy, is very much on the ball, listening to anyone who can contribute positively to her implementation group’s attempt to find workable solutions. For a start we are now getting more regular updates of the deaths. Her committee has acknowledged that we must ensure that people are treated not only for their physical addiction but that we must also address their underlying mental health problems to have any hope of success. That is serious progress.

The Conservatives' demand for mainly private clinics to be filled with addicts at £3-4k per week for a treatment that only works for a small number of people, is no solution. Our 61,500 drug addicts would be in a very long queue, for decades, to get this treatment, as there are only 416 beds available in such clinics in Scotland. Most of these beds are filled with people from abroad whose private insurance or governments can afford such treatments. We would need thousands of such beds and thousands of highly specialised staff to treat addicts in such facilities. This is simply unaffordable, even if we could prove that it actually works. Lining the pockets of multinational private health clinics to profit from people’s ill health is utterly immoral.

If Mr Ross and Ms Webber are serious about finding ways of reducing our drugs deaths then they should be concentrating on convincing their Westminster masters that Scotland must be allowed to introduce its own drug laws, allowing us to find and try new solutions to our particular problems. To do so would not only give hope to those trapped in addictions, it could well produce new, effective and affordable solutions to addiction that everyone in the UK could benefit from.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.


DRUGS Policy Minister Angela Constance refers to more than 720 deaths from drug misuse in Scotland in the first six months of 2021 as "appalling" (The Herald, September 15). However the truth is more appalling than she admits. The article makes no mention of alcohol and the reader infers that deaths due to or contributed to by alcohol are excluded.

Alcohol is Scotland's most dangerous drug.

We have recently observed a whisky supermarket, formerly Binns', opening in Princes Street. This is inappropriate, indeed obscene. I did not note a representative of the Scottish Government at the opening. Like products of fracking imported regularly to Grangemouth, the Scottish Government stays clear. This is known as Pontius Pilate Syndrome: "my hands are clean".

The Scottish Government cannot resolve the alcohol dilemma of deaths vs income. Resolution awaits fresh governance with fresh ideas; Pontius Pilate need not apply.

Dr William Durward, Bearsden.


THE reports of the Clyde ferries being built abroad and of the American Pfizer Covid vaccine being chosen for boosting doses, replacing the Oxford/Astra Zeneca product, are very disappointing.

What ideas could readers offer for the recovery of UK manufacturing in what used to be the "workshop of the world"?

British invention and innovation likewise now seem quiet by comparison with former times.

These problems, though not fully the faults of governments, could surely be stimulated by more appropriate policies than the several very costly and obviously misguided ones in Westminster and Holyrood.

Charles Wardrop, Perth.


EARLIER this week I needed to go to Ayr Hospital for an appointment. I travelled as a foot passenger.

Having bought my ticket in the booking office at Brodick I then walked the 12 paces to the foot of the stairs. I then took a further 36 paces up the stairs to the waiting-room, 18 more to present my ticket and then a further 73 paces to wend my way round the Covid-spaced chairs to the walkway. Then followed 198 paces along the walkway, making a total of 337 paces to set foot on the boat.

On my return, it was 56 paces from the booking office to the foot of the ramp, 33 paces up the ramp, and I was on the boat. A total of 89 paces at the as-yet unimproved Ardrossan terminal.

Could the management of CMAL explain how their Brodick improvements have benefited foot passengers, particularly the older and less sprightly?

John Gibson, Kilmory, Isle of Arran.


DAVID Miller (Letters, September 16) writes that is good to find humour in serious subjects. The union of two people in marriage is no doubt a serious, although joyful, undertaking, and I recall my then teenage son, admittedly in all seriousness, many years ago querying a “What God has joined together let no man put us under” misquote, at his big sister’s wedding.

R Russell Smith, Largs.