NICOLA Sturgeon has said the Government is “not where it wants to be” on drug deaths and rehab treatment. 

The First Minister made the statement during FMQs in Holyrood this afternoon after the topic was raised by Tory leader Douglas Ross.

Ross asked the First Minister if she accepted that people are “still being denied access to rehab” and if the Scottish Government’s addiction treatment system was “fundamentally broken”.

It comes as MSPs are set to debate on Tackling Drug Related Deaths later this afternoon.

READ MORE: Scotland is drug death capital of the world, here's how we can shed that title

Scotland’s drug deaths are currently the highest in Europe, in the latest figures from 2019 – which were delayed due to a backlog and the pandemic – 1264 people died as a result of drug misuse.

The First Minister had previously said her government “took the eye off the ball” on drug deaths.

The National:

In Holyrood today, Sturgeon said: “I do accept that we are not yet at the place we want to be in terms of drug treatment and services generally, and indeed in terms of drug rehabilition services in particular and the Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance will set out the progress we have made, the funding we have committed and the steps that we are taking in order to address that.

"There are a few things that the Government is more serious about doing. We are keen and open to work across the chamber in so far as that is possible.

READ MORE: New funding announced to fight crisis of drugs deaths in Scotland

“I have been open about the fact that I don’t think, notwithstanding our efforts and our determination in this area of policy, that we have not yet brought forward a package of policies that are sufficient to tackle the severity of the challenge we face.

"I don’t shy away from that but we are determined and I know Angela Constance is determined and working hard to ensure we do just that.”

Ross replied by suggesting the FM accepted the rehab system is fundamentally broken, and said that the new standards set out by Constance are a “move in the right direction”.

He added: “But they’re not game changing, they're the basics, it’s the very least the government should do.

"People on the front line in the hardest hit communities have been here before, they’re hearing the same promises and warm words but at the same time they see their families, friends or neighbours, dying from drug abuse, and all they hear is from next spring the Government might meet the expectations of people who need treatment actually get it.”

The Scottish Conservatives have lodged a Right to Recovery bill which would give people a right in law to get the treatment that they need, as Ross explained.

The National:

He asked: “Is the First Minister content to stop at the basics or will she back our proposal and give people the power to get their lives back on track?”

The First Minister hit back at Ross for repeatedly “putting words in my mouth”.

She said: “That’s ok for politics, but if we’re genuinely as I sincerely am, trying to find consensus on matters of seriousness such as this, then all of us have a duty to put some of the politics to one side. 

READ MORE: Scotland's drug-related deaths reach record levels

“There are people working across the country, delivering I think, excellent services for people with problems with drug misuse, people at grassroots, I see that in my own constituency, that’s why I don’t think it's fair to say the system is broken because it would be doing a disservice to the work they’re doing, but that is not me denying that the Government has much much more to do. 

“And that we often, in the past, and this is where I’m being really frank, our response hasn’t matched the response of those at the grassroots.”