Rosie says drug death pilot project could be extended in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
SNP general election candidate Karl Rosie has said that a new evidence-focused pilot project aimed at reducing drug-related deaths could be rolled out across the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency.
Between the start of January and the end of March this year there were 11 drug-related deaths in Caithness alone, prompting Mr Rosie – who is a Highland councillor for Thurso and Northwest Caithness – to set up a pilot project based on an approach first pioneered in Iceland.
The Icelandic model places an emphasis on evidence-focused responses. It establishes a range of parental, school and community "protective factors" such as organised sport, music, art and dance.
There is also a focus on reducing known risk factors of substance use.
“Scotland suffered a devastating 1187 drug-related deaths last year," Mr Rosie said. "While drug use is a global and national issue, it’s a local issue too, and it affects many communities throughout the Highlands. This is an unbearable loss to our community and these figures only work to highlight how desperately important it is that drug policy is addressed in Scotland.
“We are in the early stages of this in Caithness, but the Icelandic model has proven to be effective in reducing substance abuse in adolescents not only in Iceland but in many European countries that have since adopted it. Their success shows how this approach can also work for us in this constituency.”
In the last financial year, the Scottish Government provided over £70 million to help reduce the harm caused by drugs and alcohol. However, Scotland is restricted in responding to the drug emergency due to UK-wide legislation under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
The SNP’s manifesto calls for the devolution of drug policy to give the Scottish Government the necessary powers to fight addiction, reduce health risks and tackle drug-related deaths in Scotland.
Mr Rosie said: “Combining successful approaches like the Icelandic model with the devolution of drug policy to the Scottish Government will enable us to do more to fight a dreadful problem.
“The truth of the matter is that Scotland has a historic issue with drug use. We are facing a public health emergency and it’s clear that blanket UK legislation on drug policy doesn’t work – it’s time for a different approach.
"If elected, I’ll be working to combat the impacts of drug abuse across the constituency.”