A LACK of drug rehab and treatment facilities have been blamed as the number of homeless deaths nearly doubled in five years - with 60% being under the age of 45.

New calls have been made for the Scottish Government to act as 222 people died while experiencing homelessness in Scotland in 2021, according to the new report by the National Records of Scotland.

The figures show the numbers have nearly doubled since the 121 recorded fatalities in 2017, when records began.

There were two deaths where the underlying cause was Covid-19, but most were the results of drug-misuse.

Midlothian, Glasgow City, and the City of Edinburgh had the highest rates of homeless deaths within Scotland, whilst Na h-Eileanan Siar, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling council areas recorded none.

The Scottish Tenants Organisation (STO) said the homeless deaths record was "shocking" and a "national disgrace".

With the majority being drug deaths, the SNP have now been told to back the Scottish Conservatives' Right to Recovery Bill to try and bring the situation under control.

Drug-misuse deaths of people experiencing homelessness fell in the past year for the first time, from 151 to 127. But it was still the cause of over half of all deaths for people experiencing homelessness in 2021.

The development as the Blueprint to Save Lives report by advocacy group the Faces and Voices of Recovery (Favor), claimed that politicians have "forgotten" Scotland's drugs deaths crisis and that there was still a postcode lottery for treatment.

Favor called access to residential rehab inconsistent, claiming some local authorities are refusing to refer addicts seeking help to services outside their area.

It adds that "some people have been waiting years for appointments with recovery services" and claims that in many cases treatment "is solely pharmaceutical", with users prescribed drugs such as methadone and buvidal but given "no mental health support at all".

The report recommends a clear definition of residential rehabilitation be introduced, saying this would ensure "nobody is sent to pretend rehab facilities that are really stabilisation or detox services".

It calls for a centralised referral and funding system "to end the postcode lottery to residential rehab" and also suggests guidelines be brought in to ensure "mental health support is provided alongside substance management and pharmaceutical treatment".

It has called for a Right to Recovery Bill to ensure that the Scottish Government Medication Assisted Treatment standards are "actually implemented and people seeking treatment can actually get it".

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government Miles Briggs said the figures were "nothing short of appalling".

He said this "must be an urgent wake-up call for SNP ministers" to finally back the Right To Recovery Bill.

He said: "That would guarantee access to treatment for all those who need it and who are struggling with addiction.

He added: “Drug deaths are Scotland’s national shame on the SNP’s watch. We constantly hear warm words from SNP ministers about how they will tackle this scandal, but progress is moving at a snail’s pace.

“Some of our most vulnerable people are dying as a result of having nowhere to turn to for support.

“Ministers must act without any further delay and enshrine in law a right to recovery for those desperate to be able to access treatment."

Separate NRS figures on estimated homeless deaths using a statistical "experimental" model showed the numbers had risen from 164 in 2017 to 250 in 2021 and admit the probability is the numbers are hig They admit that establishing an accurate number is "hard" because not all people who die while experiencing homelessness have their lack of permanent home recorded on their death registration record.

The estimated number of deaths is established by examining death registration records to find people who were either in temporary accommodation or were sleeping rough before they died and adding to this a conservative estimated figure based on sampling.

Suicide accounted for 9% of the fatalities and 7% were alcohol-specific deaths.

Some 81% of deaths in 2021 were male and 19% were female.

In response to the death toll numbers, housing secretary Shona Robison said: “Behind every statistic is a human story and this year’s report provides heart-breaking reading. We know that experience of multiple forms of extreme disadvantage, including homelessness, poor mental health and opioid dependence, is linked to higher rates of ill health and premature death. We are committed to doing all we can to address disadvantage and prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

“That is why we are introducing new homelessness prevention duties in the forthcoming housing bill and why we continue to support local authorities to develop Housing First programmes. A recent evaluation of Scotland’s Housing First pathfinder programme saw 579 people with experience of homelessness and multiple disadvantage receive keys to a new home and a new life.

“While it is positive to see a fall in the number of drug-related deaths compared to 2020, the numbers remain worryingly high. One focus of the national mission on drug deaths is to strengthen partnerships between health and homelessness services to improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness and multiple complex needs, including substance use.”