DOUGLAS Ross has published his party’s proposals to introduce a right to rehabilitation for those struggling with drug addiction.
The Scottish Conservative leader said the Right to Recovery (Scotland) Bill is a “serious, credible proposal” that will end the “disgraceful situation where people seeking to get off drugs can’t actually get the treatment they need”.
The plans have been made public as recovery organisation Favor Scotland published a new report revealing “shocking gaps” in drug rehabilitation services across the country.
The 40-page document examines identifies problems in service provision and funding deficiencies – showing that just 13 per cent of rehab placements are funded by the Scottish Government through alcohol and drug partnerships.
The Scottish Conservatives’ bill will attempt to ensure anyone dealing with substance misuse or drug addiction is able to “quickly access their preferred treatment option, unless a medical professional deems it would be harmful”.
This would give people a right to residential or community-based rehabilitation and detoxification services.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon conceded during the election campaign that she “took her eye off the ball” with regards to Scotland’s drug problem – with a record 1,264 drug deaths recorded during 2019.
Under the Conservative proposals, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 would be amended so cash seized by authorities investigating drug crime could be used to fund care plans for those needing help.
Tories say the bill, if passed, would reduce the number of people addicted to drugs, and help cut crime as a result.
This, they argue, would in turn reduce the burden on the police, prison service and criminal justice system.
Mr Ross said: “We have worked with frontline experts to develop this proposal so we can finally make sure everyone gets the treatment they need to get off drugs and get better.
“We are determined to tackle Scotland’s drug death crisis and stop Nicola Sturgeon taking her ‘eye off the ball’ on this national shame ever again.
“This bill is still at an early stage but it is a serious, credible proposal. It would put an end to the disgraceful situation where people seeking to get off drugs can’t actually get the treatment they need.
“I urge the SNP Government to back this bill and we will work constructively with other parties and organisations across the political spectrum to make this a reality.”
Responding to Mr Ross announcing his party was to publish the bill last week, the First Minister said she will “look with an open mind at any proposals that are brought forward” and also admitted her party has “failed in aspects of drugs policy”.
Favor Scotland’s new analysis of rehab services includes a number of recommendations for the Scottish Government, specifically backing the right to rehab plans.
CEP of Favor Scotland, Annemarie Ward, said: “This new report shows the shocking gaps in funding and provision of rehabilitation services across Scotland.
“A shameful postcode lottery exists where some people are able to quickly access the treatment they need while others wait years to be treated fairly, if at all.
“The most shocking and shameful thing is that the postcode lottery is often worse in areas where drug deaths are most prevalent, particularly around Glasgow & Dundee.
“The Scottish Government have recognised the problem in their words but we do still need action to improve the situation on the ground.”
She added: “Despite the effectiveness of residential rehabilitation having been widely evidenced as a viable treatment option, there seems to be systemic reluctance from many professionals and local authorities to put in place procedures that would allow service users direct access to residential rehabilitation.
“There are many barriers to access. Many people are not informed of rehabilitation as a treatment option and, in some areas, there has been little to no rehabilitation placements in decades, if at all.
“We are pushing for a right to recovery bill to ensure that everyone who needs treatment can get it. That should not be a controversial statement.
“Drug deaths have become Scotland’s shame but if we enshrine the right to residential rehabilitation and other treatment services in law, we can save lives and end this crisis.”