Next steps

In this, our final report, we have outlined an ambitious plan for the future. We have provided an evidence-based strategy for tackling Scotland’s drug-death crisis and set out a clear picture of what needs to change.

We have engaged with hundreds of people in the development of our actions and recommendations. This has included people with lived and living experience, family members and people who work in the drug and alcohol sector, services in health and social care, justice, the third sector and beyond.

The message we have received is clear. For far too long, the issue of drug-related harm and deaths has been pushed to the bottom of a long list of priorities as a result of stigma and discrimination at all levels.

We have outlined in the preceding chapters that while change is needed in the legislative space, more must be done within our current powers to ensure a parity of treatment, respect and regard that would be expected with any other health condition.

We have also stressed the need for a consistent, person-centred system that creates a culture of care, compassion and human rights. We have explored the foundations of the change needed and the large-scale structural shifts we need to see if this vision of a better system is to be realised.

We are clear that these actions will make a difference to people’s lives. There is, however, a long way to go to achieve these goals.

Over the years, many reports, and many experts, have called for change. The evidence is clear, yet time after time change has failed to materialise. What is missing is a clear commitment to act. What matters, therefore, is what comes next.

It is for this reason, that we have called for the Scottish Government to publish a plan, as soon as possible but at the very latest in the next six months, on how they will implement these recommendations. We look forward to seeing the content of this plan.

Our recommendations, however, are not only for the Scottish Government. They are also for the UK Government, local leaders, chief executives, chief officers, ADPs, third-sector services, statutory partners and, most importantly, the people of Scotland.

Change is needed, but it will only be possible when we accept that this is everyone’s responsibility. Any person can save a life. They can do so through direct action like carrying and using naloxone and challenging stigma whenever it is seen. They can also do so by pushing their elected representatives to give proper weight to these issues.

Pressure and scrutiny is necessary to ensure that the actions and recommendations are not forgotten. A renewed focus has been brought to our work in recent months through scrutiny from Scottish Parliament joint committees (Criminal Justice; Health, Social Care and Sport; and Social Justice and Social Security). This must be maintained to ensure our vision is realised.

We welcome the announcement by the Minister for Drugs Policy of an Oversight Group. We will actively engage with this group to support the change that is needed.

Much of the work of the Taskforce will continue beyond July 2022 and will now be absorbed into the wider National Mission. This will enable our strategy to respond to new evidence and lessons learned, informing the Government’s direction over the coming years.

There will be an active role for the National Collaborative in putting care, compassion and human rights at the centre of Scotland’s response, involving those with lived, living and family experience at every stage. This Collaborative will be critical in holding Government to account and ensuring that these changes are made in a way that celebrates, involves and benefits people with lived, living and family experience.

We now stand at a moment in time when we say enough is enough. We need to pull together as a community and say no more of our people should die from a drug-related death. Every person deserves to live a happy, healthy life, free from stigma and discrimination.

We believe that change is possible. The evidence is clear and the time for talk is over. It is time for swift and decisive action.