Drugs Policy Oversight Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Drugs Policy Oversight Group.


1. The National Mission was established by the First Minister in January 2021 to reduce drug delated deaths and harms supported by an additional £50 million funding per year.

2. The aim of the national mission is to save and improve lives through a holistic approach that seeks to prevent overdoses, get more people into treatment and recovery, and address multiple and complex needs.

3. The Scottish Government cannot achieve this on its own. The national mission must be supported by local government, academics, lived and living experience representatives, international expertise, clinicians and third sector organisations.

4. The National Mission Oversight Group brings together these groups to provide challenge, scrutiny and advice to the Scottish Government and the wider sector. 

Membership and Responsibilities

5. Membership of the Group is at the invitation of the Minister for Drugs Policy.

6. The Group will be chaired by the an independently appointed Chair. 

7. A core membership will be agreed with the Minister for Drugs Policy and published on the Scottish Government website. Core members will be responsible for providing their considered opinion on the progress of the national mission, presenting relevant international comparisons and representing their organisation or peer group.

8. Members are invited on the basis of their personal experience and expertise.

9. The Group will include individuals with lived and living experience of drug use in its core membership to ensure that the perspective and experiences of living and lived experience are embedded in the work of the Group. As well as this, the Group will link in to lived and living experience networks such as the National Collaborative.

10. Membership will be reviewed after one year, and after each year thereafter.

11. The Group will nominate three members to form a steering group which will be responsible for putting forward agenda items for the Group to discuss. The membership of the steering group will be agreed at the first meeting and any changes in membership will be agreed at subsequent meetings.

12. Members submitting apologies should notify the Secretariat in advance of their named deputy or where they are unable to send a deputy. To ensure the Group is able to act swiftly, members are asked to only delegate to others where they must and that any deputies are empowered to make decisions on behalf of the member.

13. All members will make a full declaration of interests. If a member is uncertain as to whether or not an interest should be declared, they should seek guidance from the Secretariat. In addition, members will be expected to recuse themselves from any agenda item which may be a conflict of interest.

14. The Minister for Drugs Policy may invite observers to attend the proceedings of the Group.

Meeting frequency

15. The Group will meet every three months. Dates of meetings will be agreed in advance for the following year. Members will scrutinise the progress of the national mission at each meeting and discuss pertinent issues as suggested by the steering group and agreed upon by the full membership.


16. The primary role of the Oversight Group is to provide advice on whether the Scottish Government and the wider sector have a viable plan to save lives and reduce drug related harms. The Group will specifically:

  • Scrutinise the Scottish Government’s plan to deliver the national mission;
  • Identify any gaps in the plan and share suggestions for how these may be addressed;
  • Provide expert advice on policy areas and service delivery as requested by Scottish Ministers
  • Share best practice, including from other countries which have had success in reducing deaths and harms from drug use
  • Ensure accountability in the system at a national and local level
  • Explore how recommendations from other governance groups could be implemented in the context of limited funding and resources


17. The Minister for Drugs Policy retains responsibility for decisions and issues within their remit. Whenever possible, decisions by the Group will be made by consensus, but in the absence of consensus the independently appointed Chair will make the final decision.

18. Where an issue lies outside of the remit of the Minister for Drugs Policy, the associated Scottish Minister retains responsibility for those decisions.


19. Secretariat support for the Group will be provided by the Scottish Government Population Health Directorate. The Group will be able to draw on wider expertise from across the Scottish Government.

20. The Secretariat will work with members to ensure their work is fully informed. The Secretariat will ensure appropriate communication and coordination is provided to members ahead of Group meetings to ensure that a productive discussion can take place. Members are welcome to raise topics, barriers or issues for discussion at meetings with the steering group and secretariat for future agendas.

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