FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has insisted there is “no complacency” from the Scottish Government on the “deep-rooted problem” of rising drug deaths.

Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar both atttacked Yousaf at FMQs after figures published by Police Scotland suggested suspected drug deaths increased by 10% in 2023 in Scotland with 1197 recorded.

Greater Glasgow saw the highest number with 303, followed by Lanarkshire which had 147 and Edinburgh City with 118.

Ross said the situation was Scotland’s “national shame” while criticising a defence from Drugs Minister Christina McKelvie that the Government’s “plan is working”.

Meanwhile, Sarwar accused the Government of “incompetence”, pointing out Scotland has three times the number of drug deaths than anywhere else in the UK.  

Yousaf said he was “devastated” by the rise, particularly as there was evidence of progress the year before with a reduction in suspected deaths.

He said: “We are taking a range of significant actions to try to tackle this insidious problem in our society.

“We have an unwavering, unshakable commitment to the national mission to tackle drug deaths and that’s why we’ve continued to expand residential rehab. We’ve provided £50 million a year to community and grassroots organisations that are helping those in their local areas with substance abuse and addiction.

“We’ve progressed work with local authorities like Glasgow on safer consumption rooms, we’ve continued to roll out the carriage of naloxone.

“This rise is deeply disheartening but what it will only serve to do from a Government point of view is ensure that we continue to rededicate ourselves to tackling one of the most insidious challenges we face in our society.

“There is absolutely no complacency about the action we have to take.”

Ross suggested Yousaf had allowed the “vital” Turning Point 218 service – a rehab service for women – to close in Glasgow.

READ MORE: Alan Cumming backs The National's Gaza fundraising campaign

But Yousaf insisted this was a Glasgow City Council decision, adding there remained a whole range of facilities for women facing substance abuse in the city.

Yousaf also denied his Government are cutting beds – as suggested by Ross – as he said his Government invested £38m for expanding capacity in residential rehab.

He added 32 of these beds are operational with another 38 in the pipeline.

Yousaf said: “We are willing to work cross-party in order to resolve one of the most difficult challenges this country faces.”

Sarwar pointed out 5200 had died since the Scottish Government declared a drugs death emergency four years ago, but Yousaf insisted that he and McKelvie have “directly fronted up” to those figures.

The First Minister further insisted Government action meant there was now better access to treatment and the introduction of naloxone kits have been vital to saving lives.

He added the kits have been used more than 500 times since being introduced.

Elsewhere at FMQs, SNP MSP John Mason was taken to task by the First Minister when he tried to claim legalisation to implement anti-protest buffer zones around abortion services was an “overreaction”.

Mason claimed women going for abortions were not being intimidated or harassed by people holding protests and prayer vigils.

Yousaf advised his colleague to listen to women affected by the protests who have given "powerful testimonies and evidence" about how they have been impacted.

He said: "I think what’s so important in this, particularly for men, is to listen to the voices of women, and women tell us and have given powerful evidence and testimony that whatever John Mason’s views may be, they feel harm is being done.

“They do feel harassed and they do feel intimidation. Even if John Mason was to discard that evidence, and I would urge him not to, he should also listen to the clinicians at the services – the likes of Dr Greg Irwin and others who have spoken very powerfully about the impact it’s also having on staff.”