THE Scottish Government must evaluate the cost effectiveness of its spending on drug and alcohol services, a watchdog has said.

A report by Audit Scotland has urged ministers to create an “overarching plan” for initiatives aimed at tackling the problems.

In 2020, 1339 Scots lost their lives from drugs, while 1190 died solely because of alcohol, according to official figures. Both have increased from previous years, and the figures on drug deaths have added to a national crisis which sparked a major Government response with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledging £250 million over this parliamentary term to tackle the issue.

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But, Audit Scotland said, funding for drug and alcohol services needed to be more transparent with information on how much was being invested by Government, along with where it was being spent, available in one place. “More transparency is needed by the Scottish Government on how much is spent overall on drug and alcohol policy and services,” the report said. 

“This includes more clarity on the different funding streams, which organisations are receiving funding, the purpose of funding and how decisions are made on prioritisation and distribution of funding.”

The report went on to urge the Scottish Government to use existing monitoring, as well as the recommended plan to “assess the cost-effectiveness of funding in drug and alcohol services and the level of investment in prevention needed to achieve maximum benefit”.

The Government should also demonstrate the impact of its policies using “clear measures and public reporting”, as well as addressing “time lags” in data being published.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: “We’ve recently seen more drive and leadership around drug and alcohol misuse from the Scottish Government. 

“But it’s still hard to see what impact policy is having on people living in the most deprived areas, where long-standing inequalities remain.

“Drug and alcohol data is not good enough, and there is a lack of transparency about how money is being spent and allocated. 

“The Scottish Government needs to set out an integrated plan, with clear measures showing how extra spending is being used to reduce the tragic loss of life we’ve seen over the last decade.”

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A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government welcomed the report, acknowledging that Audit Scotland expressed “some concerns”. She said: “As the report recognises, the Scottish Government is investing significant leadership and investment into the national mission to improve and save lives, at the heart of which is ensuring everyone can access the right treatment and recovery for them. 

“We are investing record sums in the provision of services to address the impacts of both alcohol and drug use. 

“In 2021/22, we provided the first £50m of additional national mission funding, which will see an additional £250m invested over the life of the parliament to improve outcomes for people who are harmed by drugs, and their families and communities.

“We are also exploring the evidence around managed alcohol programmes and are pleased to be able to contribute to the running of the model being piloted in Glasgow by Simon Community Scotland and its evaluation. The report highlights the need for better and more up-to-date data to monitor progress.”

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Tory drugs spokeswoman Sue Webber said the report was “utterly damning” for the Scottish Government, adding: “This report makes it clear that the SNP’s current strategies to help those struggling with addiction are simply not working.”