The National:

AT this year’s parliamentary opening MSPs were allowed to invite a "local hero" who has gone above and beyond for their community. I chose to invite Peter Krykant, who is one of the bravest and most vital campaigners I know, and who advocates for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Over the last year Peter has run the UK’s first overdose prevention van. It provides a safe environment where drug users can inject using clean needles in the knowledge that they are doing so under the supervision of trained professionals who can intervene in the event of an overdose.

The van provides a lifeline at a time when Scotland’s drug problem is getting worse. Last year 1339 people died from drug overdoses. Behind every one of these dreadful numbers is a person and a story.

READ MORE: 'I had tears in my eyes': Peter Krykant on the new Scots drugs rules

The people who are dying are victims, with many coming from already marginalised communities. Their lives are far too important for point-scoring and the slew of sensationalism and misinformation that we have seen in the worst parts of the media.

We saw it again today in a particularly awful article about my colleague Lorna Slater MSP. The article homed in on and distorted an answer that Lorna gave in an interview in which she argued that it is not drugs in themselves that are inherently dangerous, it is the system that criminalises users.

Lorna is absolutely right. The war on drugs has failed, and, if we are to improve Scotland’s shameful record of drug-related deaths, we need to focus on harm reduction and saving lives.

We must take lessons from countries like Portugal. In 2001 Portugal’s drug-related death rate was in line with the EU average. However, the government took a different path, with big steps towards decriminalisation.

Since then, Portugal has sent far fewer people to prison for drug offences and focused far greater resources on rehabilitation. This is not to say that it has got everything right, but deaths have been consistently lower than the European average and are currently one fiftieth of the rate in Scotland.

The National:

I’m pleased that the Scottish Government is starting to think differently and is actively investigating and pursuing safe consumption rooms like Peter’s (shown above) where powers allow them to. This work needs to be taken further, as well as further investment in support services and other vital preventative measures.

But this is not just an issue for Holyrood. Many of the most important powers are still with Westminster. That is why we also need a change of approach from the UK Government, which has the ability to allow Scotland to test drugs on a regular basis to ensure they haven’t been cut or mixed with other things such as rat poison or baby powder. Those powers need to be devolved to Holyrood and used.

READ MORE: To solve Scotland's drug crisis we must urgently deal with 'street benzos'

The timing could not be more urgent. This week 25 people in our country will die from drug related causes. The same will happen next week, and the week after that. Many of these deaths and the horrific circumstances that led to them could and should have been prevented.

You cannot help people by stigmatising and criminalising them. This is a public health crisis and should be treated as such. The negative rhetoric being pushed only serves to increase stigma and push people away from seeking help. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.