SCOTTISH Tory leader Douglas Ross’s bill aimed at guaranteeing treatment for people suffering with drugs or alcohol problems may actually “increase the harms” people face, a leading expert group has said.

On Wednesday, the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) published its response to Ross’s “Right to Addiction Recovery Bill”, raising “significant concerns”.

SDF chief executive Kirsten Horsburgh welcomed “discussion” around how best to tackle Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis, but suggested the Conservatives’ bill was not the best route forward.

READ MORE: Drug experts 'keeping shtum' despite concerns about Tories' right to recovery bill

“We have considered the proposals and have concerns that overall they are insufficient to deliver the radical change required to adequately increase the number of people receiving the treatment that they request and crucially, the quality of that treatment,” Horsburgh said.

A briefing published by the SDF said: “SDF has significant concerns that the bill, as proposed, may be counterproductive in many areas and, through unintended consequences, may increase the harms faced by people experiencing drug-related problems.”

The Conservatives have claimed the bill can be a “game-changer”. If passed, it would make it a legal guarantee for a person diagnosed with a dependency or “addiction” issue to receive treatment within three weeks.

The issues about the Tories’ bill raised by the SDF include:

  • Treatment cannot be provided on the basis described in the bill
  • The relationship between the service/health professional and the patient is threatened by the bill
  • NHS budgeting would be challenged
  • The bill is not a means to expand the capacity of treatment options available
  • The decision about treatment remains wholly with the health professional and the patient is not empowered
  • The bill does not confer new rights for patients
  • The decision about which treatment patients are to be offered is unlikely to be changed by the bill

Giving one positive, the SDF report did say that the fact that the Tories’ bill “proposes better information collecting and reporting about treatment” is to be “broadly welcomed”.

The intervention from the SDF comes after The Sunday National reported that some expert groups were keeping “shtum” rather than criticise the Tories’ bill for fear of backlash.

Peter Krykant, a prominent drugs reform campaigner who now works with the charity Cranstoun, called the bill a “smokescreen of compassion”.

He said: “My worry is that the SNP could potentially look to back this because in the face of it and from a public-facing, media perspective, ‘everybody has a right now in law to addiction recovery’.

“In actual fact, it's unworkable, over costly, won't help the people that it is designed to help, and actually it’s stigmatising.”

The Scottish Conservatives have been approached for comment.