THOSE with “lived experience” of drug addiction will have a key role in shaping policy on the issue, a minister has said.

Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance made the pledge as she announced funds worth £18 million for drug treatment services in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament debated the “national mission” to reduce drug deaths on Thursday.

Constance was appointed to the newly-created ministerial role in December after figures showed Scotland’s drug-related deaths rose to 1264 in 2019, the highest number since records began.

On Thursday, she said she had recently met with a group of women, dealing with drug dependency, who had delivered a message of “hopelessness” as they felt their “lives didn’t matter”.

Constance said: “It is vital that we respond in a way that can restore hope to those who most need it, to show that their lives do, indeed, matter and they are valued as our fellow citizens.”

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There will be local and national panels including people with “lived and living experience” involved in decision-making around the new drugs policy, she said.

The minister said this would include existing organisations and would be a “significant new approach”.

Of the £18m fund, £3m will go to children and families affected by drugs misuse.

Another £5m will go towards increasing capacity for residential rehabilitation and £5m will go towards improving existing services.

Labour MSP James Kelly tabled an amendment that called for more funding for drugs services, describing the number of deaths as “devastating”.

He added: “It’s a national disgrace. It’s a failure of the devolution era, crossing a number of administrations, not just the current administration.”

Kelly also said that his party believe safe consumption rooms are key to countering the issues.

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LibDem MSP Liam McArthur said: “People are dying preventable deaths, three, four, five and sometimes even six decades before their time.

“We owe it to all of them to drop all lingering excuses – there are none.

“And we owe it to all of them to do everything possible to turn this around.”

Green MSP Alison Johnstone also questioned the legal response to drug use.

She said: “This is a public health emergency. We can’t arrest our way out of the drug deaths crisis.

“We need to help people to manage their drug use rather than to punish them for it.”