The leader of Dundee City Council says a new commission designed to tackle the city’s drug use won’t produce a “magic bullet” solution.
John Alexander says his SNP-led administration has managed to deliver, or is working towards meeting, 70% of its manifesto pledges a year since it was formed.
However, there’s pressure on the local authority to tackle drug death rates after the Tele revealed last week that 72 people had died from substance misuse in the last 12 months, the highest rate in recent history.
Mr Alexander says the commission’s work will take time but is adamant it will make a difference.
He said: “It’s an issue that we’re actively involved in. Our councillors and staff all live and breathe and work in Dundee.
“It would be all too easy to sit in the council and come up with what we thought worked — that’s why we will have the right people around the table at the commission. We don’t see recovery (from addiction) enough — it exists and we need to listen to those who are recovering.
“I don’t think there is an expectation we’ll come up with 40 recommendations and fix it with a click of our fingers.
“It’s a worldwide issue and there is no magic bullet, but there are ways we can try to shift towards prevention. Education is a big part of that.”
In recent months, radical measures such as safe injection rooms and Portugal-style decriminalisation have been put forward as ideas to combat rising drug death rates.
At this point in time, the council leader maintains an open mind on whether to try a “brave” approach.
He said: “We need to be open to a conversation on any measure that will help. What we have to be willing to do is not be muddied by a negative narrative that says we shouldn’t try these things. I’m receptive to what works.”
Elsewhere, Mr Alexander concedes there have been some setbacks in his tenure — chief among them the muddled Eurobins rollout, which led to a council apology last summer, and Brexit leading to the collapse of the European Capital of Culture bid.
Despite that outcome always being a possibility, Mr Alexander insisted he’d have done nothing differently — especially given that the last winner, Aarhus in Denmark, benefited from €159.1 million of extra spending.
He said: “It wasn’t something any of us foresaw. We had Boris Johnson (pictured) in the House of Commons saying that under no circumstances it (Brexit) would affect the Capital of Culture bids.
“It was a huge kick in the teeth for the city — and looking at how another country has benefited really sums up our disappointment.”
The council has promised to continue work on promoting Dundee as a city of culture in a different way, in order to meet its manifesto pledge.
However, Mr Alexander says other promises, such as closing the attainment gap and improving the recording of council meetings, haven’t been met yet, because they take time.
He said: “There is a commitment to deliver, however, nobody would believe you if you said you’d deliver your five-year programme in 12 months. The question is whether we have advanced something to the point we can tick it off as met.
“We’re on a journey with some of these issues. I have a pig-headed determination to strive for better.
“I’m not in my position as council leader for any reason other than to do the absolute best job I possibly can.’’