Just one single person losing their life to drugs is one too many. However, last week statistics revealed that in 2018, more than 1,000 people in Scotland died from drug-related causes.

My heart breaks for the many families and friends whose lives have been shattered by such devastating loss.

Of course, each and every death is a tragedy for the individual, their friends and families. And for Scotland overall, the situation is a tragedy that we must tackle and turn around.

Let me be clear, what we face is a national public health emergency and we must address it with focus and determination.

Drugs misuse is by no means a new problem for Scotland - indeed, the statistics showing a record number of deaths are, in large part, a legacy of misuse stretching back decades. What is beyond doubt is that the problem is extremely complex and there is no single or easy solution.

We must recognize that tackling drug deaths does not simply mean addressing drugs use. We know that mental health, trauma, isolation, housing employment or lack of it, all contribute to the circumstances surrounding substance abuse. That’s why we must take a multi-faceted approach to make changes.

All of our services, in every walk of life, must work to prevent harm and support people to recover. The Scottish Government is determined to ensure this happens.

Late last year we launched our refreshed strategy for preventing and reducing drug and alcohol related harms. Called “Rights, Respect, Recovery”, the new strategy is backed with additional funding of £20 million a year.

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It sets out how Scotland will take a health-based approach to substance misuse and treat people, not as statistics but as individuals, and help to break the many misconstrued stereotypes associated with drug use.

The strategy includes diverting drugs users out of the justice system where that is appropriate, improving access to housing and mental health treatment, and also encouraging the close involvement of family members to ensure they, too, can offer and receive support.

Last month Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick announced the Chair of a new Drugs Death Taskforce – Professor Catriona Matheson – who is committed to reinforcing this public health approach to delivering change.

The Taskforce will examine the main causes of drugs deaths and investigate best practice from across the UK and internationally to advise on changes we can makeup help save lives, whether through practice or changes to the law.

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It will also examine whether the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 makes it harder to take a public health approach to drugs misuse, and whether changes should be made to it.

This legislation is reserved to Westminster and crucially, it prevents us in Scotland from taking certain steps which we believe will help to tackle drugs deaths.

One of these measures is to allow for a Supervised Drug Consumption Facility to open here in Glasgow. Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss has taken the lead on this issue and is campaigning tirelessly to persuade the UK government to make the changes that would allow such a facility to open. So far these calls have been rebuffed but I hope we will see a rethink soon.

There is a growing movement in support of these proposals.

Supervised drugs consumption may, on the face of it, seem counterintuitive to ending drugs misuse, but countries across Europe and the rest of the world have recognised their potential to reduce the harms associated with drug use and embraced them as part of an integrated approach to drug treatment.

In countries such as Portugal, Germany, France and Denmark, they have been effective in reducing the diseases that can be transmitted through unhygienic injecting, preventing drug-related overdose deaths and connecting high-risk drug users with addiction treatment and other health and social services.

They can also have wider community benefits by helping to reduce drug use in public places and avoid the problem of discarded needles.

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No one is suggesting that facilities like this offers the sole solution but we do need to be open to new ideas - especially when they ave been proven to work elsewhere.

I hope the UK government will recognize the potential here to save lives and make the required legal changes. Alternatively, if they do not wish to do that, they should transfer the powers to the Scottish Parliament to allow us to do so.

This is not a matter of constitutional politics – it is a matter of public health and saving lives and we should all be prepared to work together.

The Evening Times last week led calls for a national summit on drugs deaths. I agree that we need to come together to discuss innovative measures to save the lives of those most at risk.

That is why the Scottish Government has agreed to host such a summit. The UK government, local authorities, other stakeholders and those with direct lived experience of the impact of drugs will be invited to take part.

Together, we can tackle this public health emergency and stop the needless loss of life. It won’t be easy but it can be done - and it must be done.