ONE could justifiably be forgiven for thinking from some of the headline media coverage that in spite of a greater than 20% reduction in drug deaths over the last year Scotland was making no progress on the war against drugs, and furthermore that the high number of drug deaths here was exclusively the fault of the Scottish Government and that the minister in charge, Elena Whitham, should be the person held to account.

Peter Smith of ITV and Connor Gillies of Sky may have perversely advanced their careers by their crude focus and rude questioning of the minister, but both failed to appropriately highlight the root cause of the problem – the UK Government’s abandonment of Scottish workers during de-industrialisation while exploiting Scotland’s resources primarily for the benefit of those living in the south-east of England. There was no “transition plan” for the many communities left behind, and this was the actual “Union dividend”, where today UK Government inaction is condoned via questionable comparisons made with drug deaths in neighbouring countries without acknowledging that the UK overall has among the highest drug death rates in Europe.

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Persistent deprivation, criminalisation and stigma do not resolve public health issues spanning generations.

Patronising arguments for the indefensible and the imposition of further austerity may win more votes from compassionless individuals content to reap the benefits of exploiting the misfortune of others, but will not resolve such complex tragedies. Of course the heartless approach of a Tory government is not news to those dismayed by the treatment of desperate refugees arriving on Great Britain’s shores. Concerned citizens already realise that self-centred, narrow-minded, short-term perspectives can only lead to the UK’s further decline, economically as well as morally, while more fires erupting around our planet add to the destructive environmental and cultural smog that will eventually suffocate all of us unless we find a better way.

Stan Grodynski
Longniddry, East Lothian

IT is good news that Scottish drug misuse deaths have fallen again to 1051, a drop of 279. The drugs minister Elena Whitham said “we must never underestimate the scale of the challenge we continue to face, including responding to new threats such as synthetic opioids and stimulant drug use”.

What the minister did not mention is the new threat to our children and young people, from single-use vaping, which is the new route into highly addictive stimulants. Nicotine – the stimulant delivered by vaping – is exactly the same as that from smoking. Smoking and alcohol are covered by another minister, as they are not seen to be drugs.

For decades the need for one minister to cover all drug use and misuse has been ignored. The Westminster government does not want that to happen, because to admit that tobacco and alcohol are powerful drugs will threaten lucrative tax and duty income – £10 billion from smoking and £12.4bn from alcohol in 2022/23.

READ MORE: Fact check: Douglas Ross's drug decriminalisation claims are wrong

The 20 years of good work in Scotland in reducing children and young people’s smoking rates to under 7% is now being completely undermined by single-use vaping rates of 11.6% and rising. One in three young vapers are converting to smoking.

All Scottish political parties must now act urgently to completely ban single-use vaping products. These products have no health-giving properties. This form of vaping is creating a new generation of nicotine addicts, some of whom will move on to using illicit drugs. Included in the 1051 drug deaths were 371 deaths from cocaine, a very powerful stimulant.

Scotland is the second-worst country in the world, after America, for drug deaths. Smoking was our number one cause of drugs deaths in the past. Our drugs minister must never underestimate the power of Big Tobacco, the owners of most vaping products, who are on a mission to addict our children and young people to the powerful stimulant nicotine to sustain their failing business.

Max Cruickshank

FURTHER to my letter of Aug 21, and as a comment on Brian Lawson’s letter of Aug 22, in which he asks how can the wholesale replacement of gas boilers be afforded, I make a suggestion.

A small greenhouse heater can be had cheaply. It heats a room quickly and at the flick of a switch. It has a fan function which ensures that not only is the warmth spread but there is degree of drying which protects against the humidity which is always the problem of human habitations in cold, wet countries which are sealed up. These heaters are easily moved to another position and can be used to cool in summer. Coupled with oil-filled also thermostatically controlled radiators for low level background heat, these need no huge investment.

This requires, as I have said, a publicly owned national grid and power company providing cheap, green power which I assume will be available in a future Scotland.

Iain WD Forde