South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has called on the UK and Scottish Governments to work together to tackle Scotland’s drug problems, as both governments prepare to hold separate conferences, in the same venue, 24 hours apart.

The Scottish Government’s drug conference, organised jointly with Glasgow City Council, will take place on Wednesday (February 26) in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow.

The UK event, which is intended to bring together drug recovery experts, health professionals and senior police officers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will take place on Thursday (February 27), also at the SECC.

The Scottish Government claims the discussions at its event “will help inform Scottish input to the UK Drugs Summit on Thursday 27 February at the same venue”.

Official figures released at the start of the year show that Dumfries and Galloway is the worst rural region in Scotland for drug-related crime.

According to the Scottish Government’s own report there were 1,388 cases in 2018/19, a rate of 93.3 per 10,000 residents. In the previous year that figure was 1,179, a rate of 79 per 10,000.

South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “We are in the midst of the public health crisis where drugs are concerned and I welcome anything which is being done to tackle these serious issues.

“Dumfries and Galloway is the worst rural region in Scotland for drug related crime so this subject is especially important for those of us in this region. Too often drugs problems are seen as a city issue but we know we face huge problems in rural areas such as ours.

“However, the fact that both the Scottish and UK Governments are holding two separate drugs summits, in the same location, just 24 hours apart is complete madness.

“We need joined-up thinking if we are to have any hope of tackling this horrendous issue and I would urge both governments to work closely together to tackle drugs issues, rather than displaying what is obviously a serious schism.

“There are no easy answers to the drugs crisis we face but what is clear is that the current policies of both Governments are not working. We need to ensure we properly invest in support to deal with addiction problems and tackle the root causes of why people turn to drugs in the first place.

“Failing to work together is about more than looking petty, drugs cost lives here in Dumfries and Galloway.”

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