SCOTLAND's Drug and Alcohol Minister Elena Whitham has announced she is quitting her government role due to health reasons. 

Whitham was appointed to the key ministerial role in March 2023, after previously serving as community safety minister.

In a letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf, Whitham said she had "experienced a series of events leading to post-traumatic stress which has impacted my wellbeing greatly" and is now seeking treatment.

Whitham said that she will stay on as a backbench MSP representing Carrick, Cumnock, and Doon Valley, with a replacement for the government role set to be announced in due course.

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Yousaf said he was "greatly saddened" that Whitham would be leaving her role.

Whitham replaced Angela Constance, now Justice Secretary, in the key role set to tackle Scotland's drug deaths during Yousaf's first reshuffle after taking over the role of FM and SNP leader.

"Over the last year I experienced a series of events leading to post-traumatic stress which has impacted my well-being greatly and for which I am receiving treatment," Whitham wrote in her resignation letter. 

"I have sought to undertake my role in your government diligently and with the passion and focus that it requires.

The National:

"Sadly, after much soul searching, it is apparent to me that I must regrettably resign from my ministerial role so that I am able to look after my wellbeing and ensure my constituents of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley continue to be represented assiduously."

Whitham said it was a "great honour" to have served in both her previous ministerial roles and said she will continue to support the Government's efforts to tackle drug deaths from the backbenches. 

She added: "I have been privileged to meet folk up and down the country who are working collectively to address the great harm Scotland is experiencing due to alcohol and other drugs…none more so than those with lived and living experience who have sought to speak truth to power.

"I am grateful to them and to all of the family members and organisations who took time to speak with me this last year."

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"It is imperative that we strive with all of our might to continue our efforts to save and improve lives as we have lost far too many of our folk to wholly preventable deaths," Whitham added. 

"Your government’s efforts to tackle poverty and inequality also play an integral role in the National Mission and the cross-government plan set out last year continues to be vital to delivery."

In response, the First Minister said:  "I am greatly saddened to hear that due to your personal ill-health you feel you cannot continue to give the role the focus that you would wish to.

"I wanted you to be aware of how greatly I have valued your efforts to tackle alcohol and drug-related deaths - not least the work to take forward proposals for reviewing drug laws.

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"Similarly, I know the dedication that you brought to your previous role of Minister for Community Safety."

Yousaf said the Scottish Government had been "enriched" by Whitham's efforts and experience in both roles. 

He added: "I know that the people of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley have in you a dedicated and conscientious public servant and I know you will continue to stand up for them to the very best of your ability."

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During her tenure, Whitham published a report calling for personal drug use to be decriminalised in Scotland or powers to be devolved to Holyrood, as part of a bid to treat the issue as a public health matter rather than a criminal one.

The plans were quickly rebuffed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

However, moves to open Scotland's first safe drug consumption room in Glasgow were given the green light by the Lord Advocate.

Despite previous clashes with the Home Office over opening such a centre, UK ministers said they would not intervene in the pilot project.

We recently told how drug deaths in Scotland have risen by 13% in the first nine months of 2023, according to the latest figures.