The causes of drug misuse are complex and need a range of policy responses. I am aware that the Home Secretary has offered to meet Scottish Government Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick to discuss a broad range of issues around the tragic matter of drug-related deaths in Scotland.
I am glad that the Home Secretary is finally going to meet the Scottish Government on this. When NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde published its proposals for a supervised drug consumption in 2016, the number of drug-related deaths stood at 257; last year, it was 394. So I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, how many people would still be alive in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area if the Home Office had not blocked, for ideological reasons, drug consumption rooms in Glasgow?
As I said in my initial response, issues around drug misuse are complex and need a range of policy responses. I welcome the fact that the summit that my Scottish Parliament colleague Miles Briggs MSP suggested is going to go ahead. I can confirm that UK Government Ministers will take part in that, and I am sure that all the issues will be discussed on that occasion.
Scotland’s drug death rate is three times higher than in the rest of the UK. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that in addition to UK-wide action, the Scottish Government should be using their substantial powers over healthcare, education, housing and criminal justice to tackle this?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. Of course the UK Government want to work closely with the Scottish Government on this. The statistics released last week are shocking to everyone in Scotland and, indeed, throughout the United Kingdom, but it should not be suggested that any of the UK Government’s policy decisions are the sole answer to this issue: it is complex, and the powers that the Scottish Parliament already has will go a long way towards dealing with it.
Two weeks ago, my constituent Chelsea Bruce died in a drugs-related incident. She was just 16 years old. The time for handwringing is over. We know that drug consumption rooms, drop-in testing and even safe clinical prescribing of illicit drugs will save lives. The international body of evidence is unequivocal, yet the Secretary of State has been sceptical and vague on this. If only he would show some leadership in urgently finding a route through the impasse between the Home Office and the Lord Advocate to help to rapidly roll out these facilities in Glasgow and across Scotland. How many more must die before the Secretary of State recognises this public health emergency and acts to save these lives?
That sort of politicking is completely unworthy of this serious debate. The Home Office, the UK Government and, with respect, the Scottish Government take this issue seriously. We are going to have a summit in early course to discuss all the issues around this, and I sincerely hope, because I have had constituents die as well, that we can move forward.