With the election day in sight, now’s the time to really think back over the past five, ten years on the progress, or lack of it, under the current SNP government. With the pandemic offering a whole host of problems for everyone in Scotland, a subject that has flown under the radar, to the SNP’s delight, is the incredibly important issue of drug addiction in Scotland. On the SNP’s own website, they explain that in 2019 an equivalent of three people every day lost their lives to drug addiction, using this point to prop up their news of saying they’re going to put more money in to tackle this. The lack of perspective and empathy to expect people to see this as a positive is absolutely mind-blowing. The SNP have had a majority government since 2011, and they are seriously saying they’re going to fix the problem now election time has come around…how convenient.
With Scotland having the highest drug related death toll in Europe, with figures likely rising over the coronavirus pandemic, it is a bleak picture for the nation. The SNP have undervalued sensible drug policy but more importantly failed to improve the societal building blocks that have a grave knock-on effect for young people in Scotland. Opportunity has been slowly but surely weathered down by poor decisions coming from Holyrood, areas have become deprived, communities have been pushed out, young people left without a purpose. With community funding being neglected year after year it’s not a surprise that drug use and drug related deaths have kept climbing in number. When the problem was and still is so clearly recognised in Scottish society, the SNP still moved forward in cutting the drug and alcohol addiction services by £47 million. This has left a dire situation in which we have the perfect storm of a budget-stricken drug and alcohol service with a continuous rise in deprivation and poverty in our cities.
Most would believe that the way around the problematic relationship that Scotland has with issues of drug addiction and rising poverty is through policy. For Renew Scotland, policy is not the only tool that needs to be used to fix this incredibly deep-rooted problem. We must tackle the issues that create this black hole of addiction. The environments that children grow up in is key to providing a better future for the next generation. We must afford every child in Scotland to be provided with an education system that doesn’t discriminate, providing opportunities and help to every pupil no matter their socio-economic background. We must also provide extensive research driven mental health services to children across the country. At the end of 2020 there were 1560 children who had been waiting more than a year for mental health treatment, triple the figure reported in 2019. How can we tackle issues of addiction when we are currently neglecting hundreds of young people who need urgent help?
We are not asking for radical changes in policy and law in Scotland, this is not a debate on decriminalisation and legalisation, we are talking about areas in which the SNP has neglected or given empty promises of changing the dark path that Scotland is currently on. What is clear to you and me is that none of this is surprising is it? We can’t hold our politicians accountable to their empty promises and lies most of the time, we don’t have that power. But the single power that you and I have comes every five years via the Scottish Parliament election. It represents a moment to review what’s happened over the years and think to yourself, what have the party in power done for me? Did they deliver on their promises? What do I want for the future of Scotland? This is the time to hold your politicians accountable, it’s time for change.
by Renew Scotland activist, Jaspur Heer, and Joint Leader, Heather Astbury