EAST Renfrewshire’s MP has admitted politicians are guilty of “a collective failure” when it comes to tackling the dangers caused by drugs.

Paul Masterton spoke out after a report in last week’s Barrhead News showed the number of lives lost to drugs in East Renfrewshire almost tripled last year, with 11 deaths in 2018, compared to four the year before.

Meanwhile, the national rate of drug deaths is the highest in Europe and three times that of the UK as a whole.

Mr Masterton admits politicians at both Westminster and Holyrood must do more to tackle the drugs “crisis” and ensure people who are at risk get the help they desperately need.

He told the Barrhead News: “The statistics really are quite frightening. It’s not only that there has been no progress – the situation is actually getting worse.

“Something needs to be done at Holyrood and at Westminster. There needs to be better understanding and a sense of urgency about this. It is a collective failure that goes beyond one party or one government.”

Scotland’s public health minister, Joe FitzPatrick, has described the problem of drug misuse as a national “emergency” and has set up a task force to advise ministers on policy.

He also called for more powers to be devolved to Holyrood to deal with the issue, with drugs legislation, including the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is currently reserved to Westminster.

Barrhead News: Paul Masterton Paul Masterton

The new drugs task force will look at potential solutions, including the establishment of medically-supervised drug consumption rooms – a move designed to stop drug users injecting in the street or other unsafe locations, but which has been blocked by the UK Government.

The Home Office has refused to support plans for consumption rooms because of concerns over law enforcement, ethical quandaries and the risk that drug users could travel long distances to use the facilities.

The task force is also to look at the idea of decriminalising drugs altogether.

Mr Masterton has said the debate on how to reduce the number of drug deaths cannot be “narrowed” to consumption rooms.

He added: “Even if there was one, it would not stop all these deaths. There needs to be a broader approach and an acceptance that what we are doing now is not working.

“At the moment, we are not getting enough people into the system where they can get advice and help.”

Last week, the Tory MP had a request for an urgent question on the issue knocked back by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, but said he remained “hopeful” the matter would be discussed at a later time.

Mr Masterton has also expressed concern over the number of deaths that involve ‘street drugs’ such as Etizolam.

Sometimes known as ‘street Valium’, or ‘the blue plague’, benzodiazepines were involved in eight of the 11 drug deaths in East Renfrewshire last year.

Mr Masterton said: “Street drugs are flooding the market, so not only are we faced with the same old problems of things like heroin, we are also facing new challenges.

“This issue needs an urgent response from both governments.”

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