Scotland’s drug death shame

Image illustrating illicit drug use.
1,339 people in Scotland died from drug-related deaths in 2020. That number is higher than the yearly deaths from Aids in Niger, higher than the yearly deaths in the Philippines’ drug war, and higher than the yearly deaths due to Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.

The number of drug deaths in Scotland in 2020 was equivalent to five Lockerbie bombings, or twenty-four 7/7 bombings.

Another failure of the SNP

The number of drug related deaths in Scotland has doubled over the past decade of SNP government.

Over that same period, the SNP have cut the Scottish government budget to alcohol and drug partnerships by more than 50% (from £114 million to £53 million). The halving of the drugs budget has undeniably been a factor in the doubling of the drug deaths. 

Despite British government austerity measures, the Scottish government’s discretionary budget – the money available for Holyrood to spend – is less than 1% lower than it was in 2010.

Therefore, the SNP’s cuts to drug services were freely made. They were cuts which the SNP did not have to make, but which they made anyway.

Astonishingly, there are no statistics for how many people access methadone in Scotland. The fact that this has not been calculated makes it impossible to plan and implement any effective strategy to combat the problem.

The Scottish government clearly has no interest in the crisis. It does not even care to find out how bad the problem is.

After all, who cares? They were junkies. They were someone else’s son or daughter or brother or sister. They were working class. They only mattered to other working class people. The crimes that fund their addiction happen in ghettos far away. 

The government doesn’t care because the drug deaths crisis is a working class issue. If the crisis was in middle class areas like the swankier parts of Leith or in Morningside, drug deaths would be the government’s first priority.

Another failure of capitalism

But even if the SNP’s drug policy was the best in the world, it would not end the crisis of addiction. 18% of the entire Scottish population are prescribed opioid painkillers. The vast majority of those prescribed live in the most deprived areas. 

What this shows is that Scottish society is shot through with traumatic psychological stress, the overwhelming cause of which is money, or the lack of it.

So many of us are trying to self-medicate – to relieve this chronic mental pain via drugs. 

Some of the most common drugs linked to Scotland’s drug deaths are adulterated and crude forms of benzodiazepine – (or Valium, legally prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness).

Why? Because those who use illegal drugs are simply trying to reproduce the pain relief which legal drugs induce. 

No single drugs policy therefore, will cure Scotland’s drug problem. Only a war on poverty will win the war on drugs.

Why Scotland?

So why is it that our drug crisis has eclipsed that of anywhere else in Europe?

Thatcher’s attack on industry in Britain – the closure of the mines, the terminal decline of production on Clydeside, the privatisation of our public transport and public services – continues to be felt across the north of England, but nowhere has it been felt so deeply and acutely as in Scotland.

No alternative was provided to the working class of Scotland to replace the job prospects, job security, home security, and life security that was taken away from them.

On this most basic and fundamental of issues – the prospect of jobs for our young workers – the SNP have stood complacent in Thatcher’s shadow.

The Workers Party holds the SNP government and the capitalist system responsible for Scotland’s obscene drug-deaths crisis. A war on poverty to end this crisis is nothing other than the class war, and must be a war we are prepared to win. 

We are asking you to fight with us – to fight for an economy that serves our needs rather than the interests of a few gluttonous and avaricious CEOs and cartel kings, the very people who have profited from Scotland’s drug epidemic.

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