A NEW group set up to offer scrutiny and advice as Scotland tackles its drug deaths crisis has met for the first time.

The National Drugs Mission oversight group, which consists of international experts and individuals who have been affected by drugs, have been joined by third sector and local government representatives to support the effort.

Drugs Policy Minister Angela Constance set up the group in order for the Scottish Government to receive challenges and scrutiny in addition to expert advice as it adapts and improves services to save more lives.

It comes after Constance said the number of drug deaths were “still far too high” as figures released last month showed there were 285 suspected fatalities recorded in the first three months of 2022.

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The Drugs Policy Minister said the group’s first meeting was “constructive” and spoke of her determination to tackle the country’s drug deaths rate.

She said: “I thank all those who have joined the oversight group and, following a constructive first meeting, I look forward to hearing their ideas on how we can improve and accelerate our efforts to tackle the drugs deaths emergency.

“The first year of the National Mission was about building the foundations for change – rolling out medication assisted treatment (MAT) standards, expanding access to residential rehabilitation, setting a new treatment target, increasing funding to community and grassroots organisations and preparing the ground for innovation such as safer drug consumption facilities.

“Now we must focus on delivering on those foundations and the oversight group will provide scrutiny, challenge and expert advice on the National Mission, including the Government response to the final recommendations of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, which are expected towards the end of July.

“As we move into this next stage of our efforts to tackle this public health emergency, backed by £250 million over the course of this parliament, I am more determined than ever to bring about the changes required to improve and save lives.”