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The scale of the drugs crisis across communities in Lochaber and elsewhere in the wider Highlands and islands means a radical rethink is required to tackle what is a human rights emergency.
So says David Stewart, Scottish Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, who has called for a change of political and policy direction to end the stigma of drug use and to save lives, as figures last week revealed record levels of drug deaths in the region.
The data published last week showed that another 39 drug-related deaths occurred last year in the Highlands and Islands following on from 67 deaths in 2018.
Scotland continues to have the highest drug-related death rate in Europe and a rate almost 3.5 times the UK rate as a whole.
Scottish Labour has now called for an end to the stigma towards people who use drugs problematically and has demanded a national response to the public health emergency.
Commenting, Mr Stewart, who is also shadow public health spokesperson, said every drug-related death was an avoidable tragedy and the Highlands and Islands were not immune from this issue.
‘The scale of the crisis in communities across Argyll and Bute, Lochaber and the wider Highlands and Islands means a radical rethink is required with a joint effort from all political leaders to tackle this human rights emergency,’ he said.
‘People who misuse drugs and their families need urgent action. Safe consumption facilities and increased rapid access to residential rehabilitation are vital and could happen today.
‘All political parties must put their heads together and work towards saving lives to help Scotland’s recovery community thrive.’