Drug deaths taskforce membership revealed

More than 20 experts appointed to group examining solutions to Scotland’s rising drug deaths

Thursday 5th September 2019

The membership of a government taskforce to address drug deaths has been revealed.

Members of the 23-strong expert group include people with experience of drug use, addiction service bosses and representatives from the police, local government and the prison service.

Academics and justice sector experts also feature in the specialist team, which will investigate what legal changes – including devolving drugs law from Westminster to Holyrood – are needed to tackle the crisis.

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick has previously said the experts would be considering decriminalisation

Appointments include chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood, John Wood of local government umbrella group COSLA and David Williams, who leads Glasgow’s health and social care partnership.

The membership list also includes Dr Robert Peat, who led a commission investigating drug deaths in Dundee that found support services were “not fit for purpose”, GP Carey Lunan and Colin Hutcheon, chair of charity Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs.

It has already been announced that Professor Catriona Matheson of Stirling university will chair the group.

They meet for the first time later this month.

Mr FitzPatrick said: “What Scotland faces in terms of drug deaths is an emergency – addressing that will need new approaches even if at first they may be challenging.

“Our new Taskforce has the desire and the experience required to tackle this problem and I look to them to help shape how services in Scotland could help save lives.

“Building on increases in funding in recent years we’re investing a further £20m over the next two years to help deliver the proposals that come forward.

“We will also host a drug summit in Glasgow to further explore this issue, ensuring that the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are also heard. I’ve repeatedly invited the UK Government to attend this summit – I hope they will soon commit to doing so.

“There are no easy answers, but if we’re to save lives we need a recognition that change is both necessary and, with the right support, achievable.”

Prof Matheson said: “We have undertaken a lot of work to prepare for the first taskforce meeting so that we can hit the ground running.

“Having said that, the scale of the challenge is considerable and I appeal to the wider community to continue to be supportive to enable us to address together the tragedy of drug deaths affecting communities across Scotland.

“I am extremely heartened we have pulled together a strong team who have given their full commitment to the aims of the taskforce.”