THE MINISTER responsible for tackling Scotland's drug deaths crisis will lobby her SNP colleagues to pay for a string of key new recommendations amid a warning over “woefully inadequate” funding for addiction services.

The Scottish Government’s drug deaths taskforce has published its 20 final recommendations for ministers including prioritising intervention to tackle the “root causes of drug dependency”.

But the SNP Government has come under fire after the taskforce stressed the need for a “culture change” in dealing with addictions, along with describing current funding to tackle the problem as “woefully inadequate”.

The taskforce’s report highlights that “resource must be targeted where it is needed most and where it will have the greatest impact”.

It adds: “Funding must be increased, targeted to where it is needed most and monitored effectively, and should foster collaboration across Government and local services.

“Funding should also be committed in a long-term, sustainable manner that is ringfenced to guarantee it is spent where intended.”

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A report by Audit Scotland published in March would that “overall funding to alcohol and drug partnerships reduced over several years but by April 2021 it returned to around the level it was six years ago in cash terms, but with no real terms increase in funding.”

The taskforce warned that “the reduction in funding in 2016/17 has had serious consequences, as many warned it would”.

It added: “In 2016, 867 drug-related deaths were reported by NRS (National Records of Scotland) . In 2020, the number had risen to 1,339 – a 54% increase.”

The taskforce warned that "demand for services far outstrips the supply of funding", concluding that "the current level of funding is woefully inadequate for this level of public health emergency".

Campaigners have warned that the recommendations were merely “rehashing of the old ideas”.

The drugs death taskforce has made 20 recommendations and has called for 139 specific actions to be taken by the Scottish and UK Governments as well as other organisations, saying the approach to drugs should move away from punishment towards care.

Pointing to the recommendations of the taskforce, SNP Drug Policy Minister, Angela Constance, said the panel had “delivered a bold blueprint for what needs to be done” to tackle Scotland's record drug deaths rate.

READ MORE: Scottish drugs death taskforce chief says punishing addicts must stop

In 2020, Scotland recorded 1,339 drugs deaths – the highest rate in Europe – while the figures for 2021 will be released next week.

Asked about funding for the recommendations, Ms Constance said: “There is obviously a budget process for the Government to go through later this year. We will also have the programme for Government.

“As well as discussing how we are going to take forward these recommendations with my own officials, I do of course now need to be having intensive discussions with other colleagues across Government.”

Ms Constance added: “There is always a very important debate around funding and I’m not going to walk away from that debate.

“It is important that I consider each and every one of these recommendations, including the recommendations around finance, and that I have an opportunity to engage with government colleagues on that in advance of the budget.”

Scottish Labour drug policy spokesperson, Claire Baker, said: “From the ‘woeful’ underfunding of services to the fragmented approach to policy, this report makes it clear that the status quo is not good enough.

“There is more that can and must be done here in Scotland if we are to reduce drug deaths, and the Scottish Government must respond to this report with the urgency needed.

“There is no time to waste - they need to use every lever at their disposal to tackle the serious shortcomings raised in this report.”

But Annemarie Ward, the CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery (Favor), labelled the recommendations “a farce” and “the same rehashing of the old ideas that got us into this mess”.

She added: “I have seen millions of pounds pouring into the field but it’s not going towards treatment.

“It’s going towards the same quangos and favoured bodies, who will churn out research about how we should reduce stigma and how we should talk about drug issues. And it will do nothing to cut drug deaths.

“What we need is to get more people into treatment and keep them there until they are well.”

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross has called for the Scottish Government to back his plans to embed drugs rehabilitation places in Scots law.

He said: “Drug deaths are Scotland’s national shame and Nicola Sturgeon was forced to admit she took her eye off the ball. This watershed report makes it clear that can never happen again if we are to drastically reduce the tragic number of lives lost to drugs in Scotland.

“There is no silver bullet to tackle the drug deaths crisis but I believe the Right to Recovery Bill which would guarantee access to treatment for those who need it most can be a game-changer in this fight.

“The Right to Recovery Bill was written in conjunction with frontline experts like Favor Scotland, and SNP ministers must accept the Taskforce’s recommendation to do likewise in their own response to this crisis.

“The publication of this report is timely ahead of the latest drug death figures being released next week. The number of deaths due to drugs have risen every year since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minster.

“That is what the SNP Government should be tackling, instead of being distracted by pushing their independence obsession at every turn.”