THE First Minister has said credit for a decrease in drug deaths in Scotland “is with campaigners” and there is “no complacency” on work to be done within government.

Humza Yousaf’s comments come after the National Records of Scotland (NRS) published figures showing that 1051 people died a drug-related death in 2022

Yousaf replied to a post by Scottish broadcaster Darren McGarvey on X, formerly known as Twitter, who said a key factor in the decrease “has been the tireless campaigning of many with lived experience”.

McGarvey wrote: “Drug deaths in Scotland fall to lowest rate since 2017. This is encouraging news. No time for complacency though.

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"Without doubt a massive factor in driving this reduction has been the tireless campaigning of many with lived experience, holding government accountable when others could not or would not speak truth to power.

“Thoughts are with those who lost friends and loved ones over the last year. Scotland still the epicentre of Europe's drug crisis and we have a long way to go.

“But progress has to be acknowledged and credit is due to everyone working around this issue.”

Campaigns by Peter Krykant and Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control, along with local inititatives across Scotalnd, are among those to receive credit online for the decrease.

Yousaf replied: “This is fair comment. I agree that credit for progress is with campaigners, particularly those who have spoken so bravely about the loss they have suffered, and rightly demanded that the government does better.

“No complacency here, there is certainly more work to do."

While the number of deaths linked to drugs misuse is now at the lowest it has been since 2017, the NRS report made clear that the rate of deaths is still “much higher” than it was when recording the data began in 1996.

It found that “after adjusting for age, there were 3.7 times as many drug misuse deaths in 2022 as in 2000” and death rates were almost 16 times higher in the most deprived parts of the country, at 52.4 per 100,000 people, compared to 3.3 per 100,000 in the most affluent areas.

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Drug policy minister Elena Whitham told press on Tuesday that in coming weeks she would have a meeting with her UK counterpart, Will Quince MP, and continue to pursue decriminalisation legislation for Scotland.

She added: “I think we’ve definitely seen the tide turning on this. I think what I’m concerned about is the fact that we have hugely potent, synthetic opioids making their way into supply within Scotland.

“That means we need to have all the harm reduction measures that we possibly can have on the ground.

"That’s why I’m asking the UK Government to work with me to make sure that we can have a network of safer consumption facilities and drug-checking facilities across the country so people can know what’s in the substances they’re using, and they can use it in the safest way possible.”