THE Scottish Government has revealed that its request for urgent help to address Scotland’s drug death crisis has been snubbed by the UK Government.

In July figures revealed that 1187 deaths due to drug overdoses had been recorded across the country last year.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick wrote to then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid on July 19 requesting an urgent meeting and asking a UK minister to contribute to a summit in Glasgow on the issue, as drug laws are reserved to Westminster.

However officials have now revealed that more than five weeks after the “urgent” request, no response has been forthcoming. FitzPatrick wrote again – this time to new Home Secretary Priti Patel – on August 1, but this letter, which the Home Office acknowledges has been received, has also gone unanswered.

Last week he wrote for a third time, repeating his belief that “the matter of drug deaths should be a priority for both our Governments”.

The latest letter also urges the UK Government to commit to attending a Glasgow summit, at which the Scottish minister hopes to “bring together a range of expertise to help shape the next steps that can be taken to reduce harm and save lives”.

FitzPatrick told the Sunday National: “I have been asking the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government to tackle this problem and have written to the Home Office on two previous occasions requesting an urgent meeting to discuss how we can work together to tackle this growing problem.

“I have had no response to either letter and have now written again to Priti Patel to see if she will commit to participating in a summit on the issue in Glasgow.

“The previous Secretary of State for Scotland stated explicitly in the House of Commons that the UK Government would attend this summit and I expect that commitment to be honoured.”

A number of leading organisations and campaigners have pointed to changes that could be made under existing powers held by the Scottish Government, including increased funding for treatment including psychosocial care and recovery networks.

Earlier this month the chair of the Government’s newly established drug task force – Professor Catriona Matheson – told the Sunday National that these were issues that experts would consider as part of its work. It is due to meet at the beginning of September. She also called for better support for evidence-led community initiatives.

However many have continued to raise concerns about problems caused by reserved drug laws, which mean that calls for decriminalisation cannot be considered by Scottish authorities. It is claimed there is a strong evidence base for the success of decriminalising personal possession – with people referred for help and support rather than put in prison.

Meanwhile many are angered by the UK Government’s continued refusal to allow a drug consumption room in Glasgow, where heroin could be safely injected and harm-reduction support and advice would be on-hand.

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, close to many injecting sites frequented by drug users in the city, has been campaigning on the issue and said the hypocrisy of UK ministers was “astounding”.

She said: “That the Home Secretary has been in post for a month and hasn’t even had the decency to respond to the Scottish Government on such a critical matter, says a lot about this Tory UK Government and their seeming ambivalence to increasing drug deaths.”

After Boris Johnson was appointed in July, she wrote to the new Prime Minister in the hope of persuading him to back her call for the consumption rooms his predecessor had ruled out.

“Instead, I’ve received a response that trudges out the same tired lines that we’ve heard countless times over,” she added.

“It speaks of the UK Government’s desire to continue to work with the Scottish Government to combat issues of drug use and the causes that underlie them, yet they won’t even respond to an invitation to attend a summit on this very issue. Similarly, the response outlines the UK Government’s promotion of evidence-based approaches, yet they continually dismiss out of hand the efficacy of Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities (SDCFs). Their hypocrisy is astounding.

“I urge the Home Secretary and Prime Minister to come to Scotland, and to meet with ministers urgently. If they’re not willing to help us save lives, then they must devolve the necessary powers to allow us to get on with the job ourselves.”

A Government spokeswoman confirmed that the previous letters had been received and that the Home Secretary would reply “in due course”.

“Any death related to drug misuse is a tragedy,” she added. “The causes of drug misuse are complex and many of the powers to deal with drug dependency such as healthcare, housing and criminal justice are devolved to Scotland. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to tackle this problem.

“There is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms and there are no plans to introduce them.”