THE UN has been asked to intervene in Scotland's drug deaths crisis.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has written to the World Health Organization calling for help to "get this public health disaster under control". 

It comes after statistics published in July showed a record number of drug deaths last year. 

Scotland has by far the highest drug death rate of any country in Europe.

Earlier this month, figures showed there were 722 suspected drug deaths in the first six months of 2021.

In a speech to the online LibDem conference, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Scotland has the worst drug mortality in the developed world. It is nearly four times the rate of England and Wales. 

“Time and again, the SNP Government have shown themselves unequal to the task of reducing this devastating problem in Scotland.

"In fact five years ago, with rates rising and records already mounting, Nicola Sturgeon saw fit to cut budgets to drug services by 22 per cent, sending organisations to the wall and severing support. 

“Last year we posted a new grim record on drug deaths, triggering a ministerial reshuffle and the introduction of a dedicated post reporting directly to the First Minister. 

“On her appointment, the new minister made it clear that first and foremost we just need to stop people dying. She had both my agreement and support for that ambition. 

“But nine months later people continue to die at the same rate as before.

"New statistics indicate that last year’s terrible record will be matched. 

“The SNP claim that these deaths are a result of UK Government policy. That is a fallacy.

"If this were the fault of reserved powers or austerity, we would see the same rates of people dying on the streets of London as we see in Glasgow. 

“We don’t. Glasgow is 10 times worse. This is a particularly Scottish problem, which now demands international attention. 

“That is why this morning I have written to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, asking him to mobilise and send a task force of global experts on drug mortality to Scotland to help get this public health disaster under control.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton's speech was his first as Scottish LibDem leader and was delayed by around an hour due to a "technical hitch".

He said voters in the UK are "stuck between two flags", adding: "Progress is stifled by a clash of nationalisms.

"The Scottish nationalism of the SNP, but also the Brexit nationalism of Boris Johnson's Conservative Party."

He argued the pandemic had allowed the Scottish Government to "set aside" parts of public policy that were already failing.