Editor of The Spectator Scotland and The Times Scotland columnist, Alex Massie, savaged politicians who attempted to push the blame onto one another over Scotland’s drug deaths epidemic. Joanna Cherry, SNP, and Tom Tugendhat, a Tory MP in Kent, debated who was to blame, with Mr Tugendhat saying the SNP had been in power for over a decade yet nothing had been done, while Ms Cherry drew attention to Westminster’s lack of policy on drug use.
It was Mr Massie who, when asked what he thought of the issue, exposed the irony in the MPs’ bickering.
He said: “Well, I’m very glad to hear our elected representatives here that we’re not playing any kind of blame game.
“Or indulging in something as constructive in a arguments as to whose summit is better than the other person’s summit.”
To this, the audience erupted into laughter.
Alex Massie savaged the politicians over their bickering
It was a reference to the controversy surrounding the announcement the Scottish government would hold a drugs summit in Glasgow the day before a UK government conference on the same issue in the same venue.
While the UK government confirmed last month it would be holding a summit at the Scottish Events Campus on 27 February, the Scottish government said on Thursday it had plans for a separate conference on the campus on the 26 February.
It said the event would “better highlight problem in Scotland.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats accused both governments of being more interested in political point scoring than they are in making progress on drug deaths.
On this issue, Mr Massie continued: “It is a wide-ranging problem and we still don’t actually I think despite a lot of good work that has been done including by the Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster.
“We don’t quite understand why the problem is so much worse in Glasgow and Dundee for instance than it is in say Liverpool or Newcastle - cities with similar types of history and demographics.”
Scotland has the highest death rate in the EU, with deaths soaring to the highest levels in 2019 since records began in 1996.
The country’s drug death rate is also nearly three times higher than that of the UK of a whole.
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The 2019 figures also means Scotland has a higher drug death are than the one reported for the US, which was previously thought to be the highest rate in the world.
There were more than 70,000 drug deaths in the US 2017 but the rate of 217 per million of the population is now marginally lower than Scotland’s rate, 218.
There are said to be about 60,000 problem drug users in Scotland, which has a population of 5.4million people.
Dr Saket Priyadarshi, of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde addiction services, told MPs in 2019 that Scotland had a much higher drug death rate than the rest of the UK because it had far more problem users.
He also said that Scottish users were taking a lethal cocktail of drugs that often combined opiates such as heroin and methadone with benzodiazepines, pills often known as street valium or street blues.
Earlier on in the show, an audience member asked why the question of independence was being asked considering the drug epidemic that is currently sweeping Scotland.
He said: “I think we’ve learnt from the Brexit process is that division doesn’t drive progress in this country.
“We’ve been told no to independence.
“It’s time for us to stop debating it, and to instead debate how we’re going to solve the problem of high drug deaths in this country, how we’re going to solve child poverty, because it’s not happening.
“We need to discuss it instead of independence.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, is thought to be pushing for a second independence vote for the latter half of the year.
Though, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has repeatedly refused the idea and said it is not on the table.