SCOTTISH ministers have called for drug laws to be devolved from Westminster to Holyrood.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell made the call in Holyrood yesterday, saying it would help tackle the sheer number of drug deaths in Scotland.

The Government announced that a new combined approach to alcohol and drugs will be published in spring 2018 and will “recognise the many shared, underlying causes and similarities in treatment services”.

The Government also said the £20 million promised by the First Minister earlier this year for preventing alcohol- and drug-related harm would see services reshaped to “focus on responding to the individual”.

Though critics said this money was funding that had already been cut from drug and alcohol services.

Drug-related deaths in Scotland are at an all-time high, with the most recent statistics showing 867 people died last year; charities say the figure is expected to increase next year.

Campbell told MSPs: “In the last 10 years our understanding of the underlying causes of addiction and substance misuse has developed, recognising that deprivation, poverty, trauma and adverse childhood experiences can cause people to turn to alcohol and drugs. While there are clear differences between the two, the root causes and response by services have too much in common to be kept apart.

“Treatment can no longer just be clinical, but must also address some of the deep-rooted social and economic circumstances that people face. It is fundamental that we join the dots better and ensure addiction services address issues such as social isolation and stigma that remain major barriers to recovery.

“This renewed approach, and the introduction of minimum unit pricing show the range of measures we’re taking to address addictions that devastate lives and communities. Our commitment in the Programme for Government will mean £60m for alcohol and drug treatment over the remaining lifetime of this Parliament to transform services and ensure they are focused on the patient, rather than the addiction.”

Last month delegates at the SNP’s conference backed calls to reform Scottish drugs laws, including looking at legalisation.

An initial motion calling on the party to approach “substance misuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal matter” that would have committed the SNP to conducting a comprehensive review was amended to call for powers over drugs to be devolved from Westminster to Holyrood.

This, the delegates argued, would allow the party to look at “all options for harm reduction, including drug classification, decriminalisation, legislation, and regulation”.

The minister quoted research from NHS Scotland and the University of Glasgow which said hundreds of men have died prematurely because of “exposure to the social, economic and political contexts of the 1980s”.

This so-called Generation X, living in deprived areas, were 10 times more likely to die a drug-related death compared to a woman living in a more affluent area.

Scottish LibDem health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said the SNP had to take their share of responsibility.

“People have died as a result of SNP cuts to drug and alcohol services and now the SNP have the temerity to claim that they are delivering extra funding when all they are doing is restoring funding previously slashed by their administration,” he said.

Green MSP John Finnie said the Government needed to be more daring, and that “rather than a refresh of something which is clearly failing” Scotland required a “radical overhaul” of drug laws “including looking at decriminalisation”.