National Mission Oversight Group: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 21 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies


Ms McKelvie, Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy

David Strang, chair of the National Mission Oversight Group

Kirsten Horsburgh, Scottish Drugs Forum

Justina Murray, Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs

Emma Crawshaw, CREW 2000 Scotland

Chris Williams, Royal College of GPs

Laura Wilson, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Dr Hannah Carver, University of Stirling

Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community Scotland

Stephen McCutcheon, Lived and Living Experience Representative

Sally Amor, Lived and Living Experience Representative

Paul Johnston, Public Health Scotland

Professor Andrew McAuley, Glasgow Caledonian University / HPS

Tracey McFall, Scottish Recovery Consortium

Sandra Holmes, Lived and Living Experience Representative.


Also attended

Joanne McEwan, Police Scotland (deputising for ACC David Duncan)

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the National Collaborative

Orlando Heijmer-Mason, Scottish Government

Maggie Page, Scottish Government

Morris Fraser, Scottish Government

Alison Crocket, Scottish Government

Deanna Francis, Scottish Government

Julie Allison, Scottish Government

Clare Laverty, Scottish Government

Issy Houston, Scottish Government

Joshua Bird, Scottish Government



Emma Wright, Scottish Government

Paul Sutherland, Scottish Government



Acc David Duncan, Police Scotland

Susanna Galea-Singer, Royal College of Psychiatrists 

Nicholas Phin, Public Health Scotland

Sarah Allen, WithYou

Billy Watson, SAMH

Eddie Follan, COSLA

Valerie White, Public Health Scotland

Iain Smith, Keegan Smith Law

Richard Foggo, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and board governance

The Chair welcomed members and attendees to the seventh meeting of the national mission oversight group (NMOG). Apologies were noted.

The Chair reiterated the purpose of the national mission is to save and improve lives through fast and appropriate access to treatment and support through all services. The NMOG role is to challenge, provide scrutiny, challenge, and advice to Scottish Government (SG).

The Minute of the previous meeting on 14 December 2023 was formally approved, with one minor change made. The summary minute for this meeting has been published on the website.

The actions and advice trackers were reviewed, there were two outstanding action points. These will be updated in due course.

The chair welcomed new minister for drugs and alcohol policy, Christina McKelvie MSP, to her first meeting of the NMOG. 

Minister introduced herself and spoke of her eagerness to hear from the group on a deeper level. 

The chair welcomed two new members of the group, HC and TM and thanked their predecessors for their work on the group to date.

Deep dive – national collaborative

AM, chair of the national collaborative attended the meeting to speak on the work of the national collaborative.

The focus of his discussion was on:

•    where things are with the National Collaborative
•    highlighting a perspective on the strategic issues and questions to be asking from a human rights and stigma perspective
•    empowering communities to bring the change, individual and collective advocacy and engagement with duty bearers

National collaborative deep dive – discussion

The chair welcomed comments and discussion on AM’s presentation.


Members fed back that they felt the work of the national collaborative and of the change team was great work and what they have done so far has been good. They can see that the charter of rights is going to be a useful tool for a number of people and hope that it can be implemented in other streams. 

The members of the group offered their support to the work of the Charter of Rights and hoped that this piece of work would help join the dots between the work of the Workforce Expert Delivery Group (WEDG) and that of the MAT Standards.

Deep dive – stigma

JA from the Scottish Government’s Stigma Team attended the meeting to present on stigma.

The focus of JA’s presentation was on:

•    how the SG are planning the co-design research phase
•    the main questions to be answered during the co-design phase
•    the key challenges that the SG are anticipating

Stigma deep dive – discussion

The chair welcomed comments from the group on the stigma presentation.


There was an overall feeling that there is still a lot to do before we see any significant changes to the stigma people face, although the work done to date has been very useful.

Agreement that a lot of work was required to get these messages through to frontline staff. Members highlighted the importance of the work being a programme rather than a campaign and stressed that media campaigns alone do not change behaviour.

Scottish Government update

OHM referenced the SG update paper and RAG status report papers (NMOG 08/23-05/06/07) which were provided in advance of the meeting, highlighting preference to discuss and take any questions and summarised content. The key areas included:

•    achievements since the last meeting
•    actions for the coming months
•    cross Government Update

The chair welcomed comments and discussion on the SG update.


Members raised concerns over the current wider budget position. OHM confirmed that although this is a hugely challenging time in terms of budgets, ministers and the FM himself were very clear on the drugs budget being maintained. 

Suspected drug death stats

JB presented on the latest suspected drug death stats, which were published on 12 March 2024.

The key findings from the stats were:

•    there were 1,197 suspected drug deaths, 10% (105) more than during 2022
•    there were 875 suspected drug deaths of males (73%). This is an increase of 14% (108) compared to 2022, when there were 767 such deaths
•    there were 322 suspected drug deaths of females (27%), a decrease of 1% (3) compared to 2022 when there were 325 such deaths
•    a majority (66%) of suspected drug deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54. This is broadly in line with previous periods
•    there were 54 suspected drug deaths in the under 25 age group (5%). This is 2% (1) fewer than in 2022 when there were 55 such deaths
•    the Police Divisions with the greatest number of suspected drug deaths were: Greater Glasgow (303), Lanarkshire (147) and Edinburgh City (118)  

The chair welcomed comments on the latest suspected drug death stats.


Group members queried how many of these deaths were people who were already in treatment. This data is no longer collected although feels important to have.

There was a general agreement from the group that there needs to be more focus on stimulants, otherwise we will not see a change in these figures in future. The MAT standards will be hard to achieve if we do not evolve.


AC presented to the group on synthetics. The focus of this was on:

•    giving an overview of the emerging threat posed by synthetic drugs in Scotland
•    looking at the main concern in the rise in synthetic opioids, such as nitazines
•    looking at the Scottish Government’s initial approach to ensure preparedness in addressing the issues of synthetics
•    highlighting the work streams to take this forward – surveillance, communications, harm reduction, treatment readiness, wider service readiness

Any other business and close

The chair thanked attendees for coming to today’s meeting.

The chair reminded attendees that, should they have any items they would like to add to the agenda for future meetings, they should let the steering group know.

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday 20 June 2024 at 14:00 in St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh. The proposed focus will be on accountability, governance and finance.

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