AN SNP councillor was today thrown out of a meeting by an organisation campaigning against drug deaths and accused of only showing up to get his photograph taken.

Graham Campbell, who represents the Springburn ward on Glasgow city council, was shown the door by Anne Marie Ward, leader of the charity Favor (Faces and Voices of Recovery).

The two were filmed engaged in a dispute at the Bluevale Community Centre in Haghill, Glasgow where the charity was launching a report assessing the Scottish Government's work to address the crisis.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross met at the centre a year ago to find out about the centre's recovery and physical health services.

Ms Ward was seen telling Councillor Campbell: "You have not be there, you have not been there," before asking him to leave the room.

After the row, Ms Ward told reporters: "He showed up at two events in the last three years. He's barely spoke a word to us during those events.

"He's not offered any support outside those events. As far as I'm concerned he showed up to get his photograph taken to prove he was there.

"There's been no support. So for him to stand up and say that he has supported the campaign since it started is laughable....It's a complete brass neck."

But Councillor Campbell hit back and said: "I think it was over the top. But I was not treated like that by the others in the campaign and they did apologise for the conduct.

"Look I'm a big boy I can handle criticism. I expected to hear some criticism as I know there's a view that Favor has expressed before.

"I was expecting criticism, I wasn't expecting that and I think it was uncalled for."

Earlier today the First Minister insisted Scotland's drug crisis is "absolutely not forgotten" despite campaigners' fears.

The report by Favor, published on Monday, outlined the charity's concerns on "inconsistent" access to rehabilitation centres and urged political leaders to "wake up" to the reality of the drug crisis.

Ms Sturgeon was at Harper House in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, on Monday with drugs policy minister Angela Constance to officially open a new family drugs treatment service.

The facility, run by Phoenix Futures charity with £8 million Government grant funding, helps parents battling drug or alcohol addiction to get treatment without the fear of being separated from their children.

When asked whether she agreed with Favor's assessment of a forgotten crisis, the First Minister said: "No, absolutely not.

"And manifestly, it's not been forgotten, on the contrary, the work that has been done, which is by no means completed yet, is being shown in facilities like this."

Ms Sturgeon said the facility showed the "real work" that is under way to tackle the crisis after official records revealed there were 1,300 drug related deaths in Scotland in 2021 - nine fewer than the previous year.

She said: "This is a facility that is being made possible through partnership with the Scottish Government and significant funding from the Scottish Government.

"It's one example of a broader range of treatment options and services that we want to make available for people with a drug misuse problem so that they can rebuild their lives with the support they need around them."

The Scottish Government's target of funding 1,000 yearly rehab placements for problematic drugs use by 2026 is still achievable despite concerns from campaigners, the First Minister said.

Ms Sturgeon added: "We've seen a 20 per cent increase in residential rehabilitation places already, so now more than 500, with continued investment from the Scottish Government to ensure that that is a target and aspiration we are able to meet."

Ms Constance said: "I am very pleased to see as a result of that national mission to save and improve lives that we are funding Scotland's first national family rehabilitation centre here in Saltcoats.

"We have also funded the expansion of residential rehab services in the Lothians, we have also supported Aberlour Childcare Trust to develop child and mother houses, and we've supported other projects the length and breadth of Scotland - projects that are making a difference here and now."

 

HeraldScotland:

Anne-Marie Ward, right, pictured with Scottish Government minister Angela Constance, last year.  Photo Gordon Terris.

She said the Scottish Government had made a "solid start" to reaching the 1,000 placements target - but acknowledged more work needed to be done.

Addressing Favor's concerns of a "postcode lottery", with drug users in some local authorities being unable to access rehab treatment, Ms Constance said: "I've always been clear that irrespective of where anyone lives in Scotland that they have the right to access treatment that is right for them.

"In terms of residential rehabilitation, it's the reason that the Scottish Government has provided specific funding to each and every alcohol and drug partnership.
"It's also the reason why we've insisted that every local area has a residential rehab care pathway so people know how to access assessment and access services.

"There is more to do in terms of ensuring a better spread of services across Scotland and that's why, in the near future, we'll be reopening the rapid capacity development programme for residential rehab."

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who attended the launch of Favor's report, said:

"My visit a year ago alongside Nicola Sturgeon should have heralded a major turning point in tackling this crisis.

"Instead, the SNP Government have continued to let down campaigners at every turn and merely paid them lip service.

"That is why campaigners have concluded in their damning report that this crisis has shamefully been forgotten about.

"I carefully listened again to campaigners at Bluevale, and the clear message is that we must act without any further delay."

The Scottish Tory leader also called for the Scottish Government to back his Right to Recovery (Scotland) Bill.