The right to access residential drug rehabilitation services should be included in law, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
Party leader Douglas Ross has joined the addiction charity Faces and Voices of Recovery (Favor) Scotland to pledge a “right to rehab” so drug users cannot be denied treatment.
The right to rehab policy aims to enshrine the right to necessary treatment in law, with national standards and referral guidance to increase the accessibility of rehabilitation programmes.
It also calls for dedicated and autonomous government funding to “bypass the broken system” of Scotland’s 31 Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs).
Mr Ross said: “For too long, the Government has taken its eye off the ball, by its own admission.
“Tackling drug deaths has not been a priority and that has to change now. Too many lives have already been lost.
“We will seek to enshrine a right to rehab in law to make sure that everyone who wants help gets access to the treatment they need, accompanied by a central fund to bypass the broken system.
“We will keep campaigning and forcing the SNP to act for as long as it takes to improve access to treatment services and get people the help they need to get well.”
The Scottish Tory leader announced the pledge alongside Favor Scotland CEO Annemarie Ward who said: “The situation on the ground is getting worse. Drug death numbers undoubtedly will rise.
“This is yet another heartbreaking year for the recovery and treatment community.
“We are told funding is coming but it is not reaching the frontline. The current system is broken.
“A postcode lottery has developed and unbelievably, it is people in the hardest hit areas – particularly in Glasgow – who are still being denied access to treatment.”
The charity has been calling for donations through their website to help pay for legal challenges in court for cases where addicts are denied access to rehabilitation or drug treatment.
Ms Ward added: “We have sought counsel and, if we can raise the necessary funds, we hope to mount legal challenges every time someone is denied access to rehabilitation services or delayed access to other substance use treatment.
“We have a problem in Scotland that is not being tackled and Favor will work with anyone and everyone to force change and save lives.”
SNP drugs minister Angela Constance said they have committed £250 million to address the “preventable tragedy” of Scotland’s drug deaths crisis, with £100 million for residential rehabilitation places “for everyone who wants one” if considered clinically appropriate.
She added: “Our central goal is to support more people into treatment that is right for them on an ask once, get help fast basis. We remain fully committed to introducing medically safe consumption facilities and other evidence-led interventions to reduce harm and promote recovery.
“The Tories have not identified funding or outlined an overall plan for change on how we tackle this public health emergency.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called for the crisis to be tackled with “compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution”.
He said: “The SNP’s failure was more than just a political failure, it was a failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people.
“Not only did the SNP fail to take the necessary action to save lives, they made it worse by cutting the alcohol and drug partnership budgets, surrendering services and expertise.
“It was admitted in 2017 that essential drug reforms weren’t pursued because it wasn’t seen as a vote winner. This is political negligence of the highest order.”