FERGUS EWING MSP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY
The scale of Scotland's drug problem should be a concern to all of us. Too many people are ruining their own lives and harming others around them through the use of drugs. Although this is an issue that affects most societies across the world, it is clear that Scotland's problem is disproportionately serious.
As a Government, we have set ourselves 15 national objectives to achieve our overarching purpose - to increase sustainable economic growth. Tackling problem drug use more effectively, with an estimated £2.6bn cost to the country every year, will make a significant contribution to achieving this. Reducing problem drug use will get more people back to work; revitalise some of our most deprived communities; and allow significant public investment to be redirected.
Since becoming Minister for Community Safety one year ago, I have had the privilege of meeting many people working in the field. I have been struck by their commitment and hard work. Many of them have told me that they want a new vision for tackling drug use in Scotland, and a great many agree about what the focus of that new vision should be. It is the job of Government to capture that vision and consensus and then set out what needs to be done to turn it into reality.
This is the purpose of this new strategy. To signal a step change in the way that Scotland deals with its drug problem. To explain how we need to change our way of thinking about drug use, and to set out what actions are effective in tackling it. Above all, to set out a new vision where all our drug treatment and rehabilitation services are based on the principle of recovery.
This commitment to recovery, to responding to the desire of people who use drugs to become drug free, lies at the heart of this strategy. Aiming for recovery means coupling common sense with aspiration, and pragmatism with idealism. It means that public money invested in drug treatment services should have clear outcomes attached to them. And it means that we must treat each person using drugs on their own terms, and centre care around the person, not the addiction.
At the same time, we need to make sure that, right across Government and public services in Scotland we are doing what we can to prevent drug use in the longer term. From working with families of new-born children, through education in schools, to regenerating communities and tackling poverty, many areas of public life have a contribution to make. The recycling of monies seized from drug dealers into local community projects and facilities for young people to enjoy has an important part to play. We need to harness all this potential to make a difference.
I look forward to working with everyone with an interest over the course of the coming months and years to making a reality of recovery. In many ways, this strategy marks the beginning of a process, perhaps even a new era for tackling drug use in Scotland. I would encourage everyone to get involved and play their part in putting our country on the road to recovery.