SNP ministers will draw plans to cut drug and drink deaths. Audit Scotland says “that amid our spiralling illicit drug deaths, progress has been too slow” by the Scottish Government. I agree, and there are reasons for that. The Scottish and UK governments have been far too close to the tobacco and alcohol industries – and reluctant to upset them because of the massive income these drug companies provide in taxes.

Note: I said “these drug companies” quite deliberately because nicotine and alcohol are very powerful and addictive drugs. The new cash cow, the vaping industry, continues to feed the nicotine habits of ex-smokers – they own most of the vaping companies.

The facts about deaths from tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs make interesting reading. We have around 10,000 smoking-related deaths every year in Scotland. Why, I wonder, has that same figure been reported for at least the last 20 years? It should have reduced because all the millions spent by governments. Each year smoking is responsible for around 33,500 hospital admissions.

The latest alcohol deaths of 1020 are an inaccurate figure as they do not include alcohol-related deaths from suicide, road traffic accidents, violence, falls or fires in the home. There were 35,499 stays in hospital from alcohol problems, 4% of adults in Scotland, 106,500, have alcohol dependency.

The illicit drugs deaths of 1339 in 2020 generated 10,509 hospital admissions, 61,500 people in Scotland are known to be addicted to illicit drugs.

READ MORE: Watchdog calls for evaluation on Scottish Government's drug and alcohol spend

Our total drug deaths are clearly not reported accurately. The news headlines about drug deaths are only about illicit drugs. However, the number one cause of drugs deaths is still smoking, alcohol comes second and continues to be Scotland’s biggest drug problem, and getting worse since the Covid pandemic. Almost all illicit drug users smoke and consume alcohol as well. So, illicit drugs deaths are the third and lesser problem.

All of these highly addictive drugs are used by people to self-medicate because of the traumas in their lives or hidden and undiagnosed mental health problems.

The Scottish Government is working hard to find solutions, but the costs are massive. If the Scottish Conservatives plea for instant access to residential drug rehabilitation were to be offered it would cost £3-£4k per week or £36-£48k for a three-month treatment, with a success rate is under 5% would cost billions.

High-quality community-based treatments costing the equivalent of imprisonment, £730 a week, would be more affordable and successful. My proposal for a community-based, Addiction Recovery Passport, based on the that figure was rejected by the Scottish Government. If Audit Scotland want value for money, this idea might be worth a second look.

Max Cruickshank

I FEEL betrayed by Ian Blackford‘s statement about keeping the monarchy. For heaven‘s sake do we want real independence or not! The retention of the monarchy is very much a political decision and not in line with genuine independence but it also has to do with identity.

We have the right to be different; other nations have broken away from unions before, for example, Norway decided to end the Union with Sweden in 1905.

The SNP have shown that their idea of nationalism is one of generosity and openness towards others. There is no better example than the present tragic situation of the Ukrainian refugees. This example shows only too clearly how we differ from Westminster. This is nationalism at its best! Proof enough how much the Scottish Government needs a department of foreign affairs as well as one for interior (Home Office).we are being obstructed everywhere in matters of political action by Westminster.

READ MORE: Ian Blackford’s statement on Queen removes fruitful Unionist line of attack

Another example is being kept from introducing new methods to solve the horrific drugs problem in Scotland.

Why should we be ashamed of having a different mentality than those south of the Border? Our mentality has been shaped by our very different history. Norwegians and Swedes have similarities partly in language and to some extent in character but they feel comfortable being different.

James Dobbie
Bern, Switzerland

LIKE everyone, I am concerned about the rising energy prices, in particular the increase in heating costs. It is my understanding that current gas central heating boilers can run a mix of hydrogen and natural gas. Why is this not being considered as a possible way to reduce costs and help reduce the impact on the climate? This could be used in the meantime until hydrogen only central heating boilers are readily available. Hydrogen is easy to produce using clean renewable energy and is easy to store. On Shetland they produce hydrogen from the surplus renewable energy they generate.

Gordon Walker
via email