THE Tories’ proposals to combat the drugs deaths crisis in Scotland are “neither radical nor practical”, a top expert has said.

Jardine Simpson, the CEO of the Scottish Recovery Consortium, was speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland when he made the comments about what Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has termed “game-changing” draft legislation to tackle drug deaths.

Ross is urging MSPs to back a Right to Recovery Billl, which would legislate for the right to receive “potentially life-saving” treatment including residential rehabilitation.

The Scottish Tory leader said: “There is no one silver bullet in the fight against drug and alcohol deaths but I firmly believe Right to Recovery can be a game-changer.

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“That’s because it has been drafted with the help of those with lived experience of addiction, and it will tackle one of the biggest obstacles to recovery those with addictions face: the scarcity of treatment available.”

However, Simpson questioned the usefulness of the bill – which he called “well-meaning” but “somewhat flawed in its approach” – and said it would have “unintended consequences”.

He told the BBC: “Douglas Ross [below] has described this proposal as radical and practical. I think it’s neither radical nor practical.”

The National: Douglas Ross

Simpson said he agreed with an “awful lot” in the proposal but said it was already being worked towards without the need to legislate, which would have “a lot of unintended consequences”

He went on: “The unintended consequences of the legislation, particularly how this proposal is being drafted, there are huge gaps around the mechanisms and measurement. For instance, what about lived experience recovery organisations in all of this? If this bill’s enshrined in law the folk are just going to be maintained within the medicalised system which we know is failing.

“The sector is working hard, and so it should be, to improve itself. The problems within the drug sector in Scotland are historic, it’s been going on for decades.

“If you want to take a legislative approach look at the Equalities Act 2010 that expressly excludes people with drug issues because they are ‘self-induced’ problems … If Mr Ross and the people who have formulated this proposal are really that keen on improving the accessibility and the quality of treatment that people experience in Scotland then maybe look at the Equalities Act 2010.”

The Tories’ bill follows a consultation opening on Labour MSP Paul Sweeney’s Drugs Death Prevention (Scotland) Bill.

Sweeney’s bill will seek to “enable the establishment of overdose prevention centres” by laying down a licensing framework and creating a new public body with oversight of drugs policy.

It has widespread support in principle from opposition parties, with even the Tories saying they did not oppose a trial site.

However, Annemarie Ward, the CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery (Favor) UK who helped to draft the Tory bill, told the BBC she did not think safe consumption spaces would help the crisis facing the country “considering that most people who are dying in Scotland are dying on their own, in their own homes”.

Ward further said the Tories’ bill was “absolutely necessary” to enshrine in law people’s right to seek treatment for drug addiction.

Angela Constance (below), Scotland’s minister for drugs policy, also spoke to the BBC radio programme about the Tories’ bill, but withheld her support until she could see further details.

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She said: “What Mr Ross and the Conservatives have brought forward, I've always said that it will be given a very fair and sympathetic hearing, but we will want to look at the detail. What they are lodging today is a final proposition.

“Once they secure a certain level of support in Parliament, that will then give them the right to bring forward a bill. So we've still to see the actual bill.”

Constance added: “I want to see their bill. I’m not being unreasonable here or unhelpful – this is about how we make people’s rights real in practice on the ground.”

Even with the support of all opposition parties in Holyrood, the legislation would still not have enough votes to pass, meaning at least the Scottish Greens would have to support it, if not the SNP.

Ross said of his proposal: “I would urge MSPs from across the parliament to back Right to Recovery. The current approach to drug and alcohol addiction clearly isn’t working, so radical but common sense action is required – and this bill is that.

“The response to it from stakeholders – including charities, support groups, tenants’ associations and churches – was overwhelmingly positive at the consultation stage [77% of responses were in favour]. Now it’s time for us politicians to get it enacted.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We will consider the draft Right to Recovery Bill and will respond in due course.

“Every drug death is a tragedy and we are committed to working across Government, Parliament and beyond, to deliver the National Mission to save and improve lives.

“As part of our national mission to tackle the drug deaths emergency we’ve allocated an additional £250 million over five years to improve and increase access to services for people affected by drug addiction – that includes investment of £100 million on residential rehabilitation to increase capacity and improve pathways to expand access to services for the most vulnerable.

“That investment will support delivery of our commitment to increasing the number of publicly funded residential rehabilitation placements by more than 300% by 2026.”