National Drugs Mission Implementation Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the National Drugs Mission Implementation Group.


The numbers of drug-related deaths in Scotland are far too high. These deaths are tragic and avoidable – reducing them is a priority for all of us. The Scottish Government announced a national mission to improve and save lives. The core of this mission is taking action based on what we know works to reduce harm, promote recovery and save lives. 

The Implementation Group, chaired by the Minister for Drugs Policy, will ensure that the necessary actions and change required to improve and save lives are being driven across all parts of government and services. It will identify actions to change and improve culture, practice and structures, and oversee the delivery of those actions. 

The Group will consider recommendations from the Drug Deaths Taskforce, the Residential Rehabilitation Working Group, third sector organisations and services themselves to ensure that the Government is following the evidence on what works and listening to the diverse voices of those with lived and living experience. 

A key function of the Group will be to identify and overcome barriers to delivering the National Mission. Barriers or issues can be identified by members, third sector organisations, statutory services and lived and living experience representatives and networks.

Membership and responsibilities

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

The Group will be chaired by the Minister for Drugs Policy.

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 updates on behalf of their organisation, discussing actions and progress on actions to deliver the national mission, and consider evidence and evaluation related to those actions. Core members may wish to raise barriers or issues relating to delivery of the National Mission for discussion.

The Group will include individuals with lived or 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.

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

In addition to the core membership, the Group will have access to a virtual network of organisations with responsibility for and/or an interest in the work of the national mission. Members of the virtual network may be invited to relevant Group meetings, dependant on the demands of each agenda. 

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. 

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. 

Meeting frequency

The Group will meet every 3 months. Dates of meetings will be agreed in advance for the following year. 


The primary role of the Implementation Group is to support the delivery of the Scottish Government’s national mission to tackle Scotland’s drug deaths emergency by identifying and overseeing delivery of actions which will improve health and social care outcomes for people who use drugs, reducing the risk of harm and death.

By bringing together decision makers and key influencers from a range of organisations essential to the successful delivery of the mission, the Group will work collaboratively across organisational and structural boundaries.

The Group will work together with those with lived or living experience of drug use to deliver the national mission. This will be embedded in the structures of the group to ensure that those with lived or living experience can meaningfully contribute to the activities of the Group. 

In addition to this, the Group will ensure that inclusivity and diversity are considered in all its work. 

The Group will focus on the five key areas to reduce drug related deaths set out as a priority by the First Minister in her statement 20 January 2021. These are:

  • fast and appropriate access to treatment including heroin-assisted treatment and implementation of the Medication Assisted Treatment standards
  • residential care and rehabilitation
  • creation of a more joined-up approach that supports people living with drug problem to address all the underlying challenges they face - of which a drug problem is often just the symptom - and which ensures better support after near-fatal overdoses
  • the vital role of front-line, often third sector, organisations
  • exploring ways to overcome the barriers to introducing overdose prevention facilities

The Group will specifically:

  • ensure advice and recommendations from Ministers and other groups are implemented in the most appropriate way – including on a national, regional or local basis
  • ensure that local accountability arrangements are appropriate to deliver the national mission (including Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Integration Joint Boards)
  • where there are barriers to change in culture and practice, identify these and work to overcome them
  • consider how closer joint-working can be achieved when implementing the national mission and put in place structures and mechanisms that enable this
  • ensure all services, policies and interventions to deliver the national mission are person-centred, trauma-informed and family-aware
  • ensure improvement and change are being driven across all parts of Government and care and support services
  • receive updates on the progression of the national mission and take forward any necessary resulting actions
  • monitor evaluation of activity that forms the national mission to understand what is working well and what may need to change
  • monitor the progress of any targets and indicators that may be set and promote activities which aid in the meeting of those targets

The Group will consider requests from Ministers on implementing recommendations or advice from stakeholders, including recommendations or advice from the Drugs Deaths Taskforce, the Residential Rehabilitation Working Group and lived and living experience groups.


The Group is chaired by the Minister for Drugs Policy, who retains responsibility for decisions and issues within their remit. The Group will consider recommendations from a range of sources, and wherever possible decisions will be made by consensus, but in the absence of consensus the Minister for Drugs Policy will make the final decision. 

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


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, as well as from organisations from the wider virtual network. 

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. Core members are welcome to raise topics, barriers or issues for discussion at meetings with the secretariat for future agendas. 

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