Blog post: Faye Keogh, Policy and Business Development Officer, Turning Point Scotland

I’ve welcomed the opportunity to work on our submission to the Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland.  It has been a really interesting opportunity to talk with colleagues and with the people we support about some key questions; what drives problematic drug use in Scotland? What would an effective, evidence based system of treatment and prevention look like?  What gets in the way of delivering policy aims and intentions?

There was a strong feeling that we must share what we learn from delivering our services, and working with people experiencing problematic drug and alcohol use across Scotland.  Something we see consistently, that is so relevant to this inquiry, is how problematic drug and alcohol use is connected to so many other issues; it is driven by and a driver of trauma, mental ill-health, domestic violence, homelessness, offending and involvement in the criminal justice system.

We are making progress in developing a policy framework that recognises how these issues are interrelated – it is acknowledged in the Scottish Government’s new drug strategy ‘Rights, Respect and Recovery’ and in their action plan on ending homelessness, produced in response to the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) recommendations which paid particular attention to these connections.  There is much still to be done to put these intentions into coordinated practice.

Learning from the evidence is a key theme in our submission to the inquiry; it’s the strongest message that we hope to give the Committee.  The evidence shows us that this is a critical time, as drug related deaths continue to rise at a horrifying rate.  The evidence shows that public health outcomes across Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, are significantly poorer than demographically similar parts of the UK, a result of a complex mix of factors.  Finally, the evidence shows that there are actions that we can take to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  Our legal framework, and the way that it is interpreted, is currently preventing us from exploring how approaches, like Safer Consumption Rooms, could work towards addressing some of the particular challenges that we face in Scotland.

Turning Point Scotland believes that we need a legal and policy framework, based on evidence of what works, that enables us to prevent and respond to problematic drug use effectively.  We hope that this inquiry will draw attention to these issues and help move us forwards in a positive direction.