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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 18 April 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Preventative Health Agenda, Business Motion, Decision Time, Addaction



The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-03632, in the name of Christine Grahame, on Addaction. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament commends the work undertaken by the drug, alcohol and mental health charity, Addaction; notes that Addaction has 23 regional sites in Scotland, including Galashiels, and is the largest organisation of its kind; further notes its ethos that the wellbeing, health and happiness of people, families and communities is paramount and its assertion that people with substance misuse problems should be supported through health and social care agencies and diverted away from the criminal justice system; recognises the dedication and work that the staff and volunteers of Addaction undertake every day to support sustainable recovery in people with addiction issues, and looks forward to hearing more about their work at their exhibition in the Parliament from 21 to 23 February 2017.

I call Christine Grahame to open the debate—[Interruption.] Ms Grahame, I would have thought that you would know to put your card in the slot.


I will not blush.

I thank all the members who signed my motion, which has allowed us to have the debate. I also thank in advance the members who will speak in the debate, and I welcome representatives from Addaction to the public gallery.

What is Addaction? To be frank, until last year, I had not heard of this United Kingdom charity—I did not have a clue. That was entirely my fault. I wonder how many of my colleagues were also, and still are, in the dark about the organisation and the work that it does. Addaction is a leading UK drug, alcohol and mental health charity that deals with 75,000 people across 100 places in the UK, including 23 sites in Scotland from Argyll and Bute to the Borders. Its aim is to support people in their recovery from addiction, in the recognition that drug and alcohol addictions are health and wellbeing issues and not an issue for the criminal justice system. We all know that far too many people land in our prisons because of addictions and mental health issues. Although the prison staff and health staff do their best, the question is whether those men and women should be there in the first place.

How did I find out about Addaction? Like many of the most important things in life, it happened by chance. I had put out a call for nominations for a local hero to be my guest at the opening of this session of Parliament. There were worthy nominees, but one stood out. I received a letter from a woman who had recovered her life from alcohol addiction through contacting Rod Anderson, who had been her support and had been through that recovery himself.

This is what the letter said:

“He not only saved my life he transformed it beyond recognition. He gave my children a future. I am not the only one there are dozens of us. He performs miracles on a daily basis and saves the lives of many. For the first time in the history of the borders we now have a recovery community.

After overcoming his own battle with alcohol using the support of Addaction Rod decided to dedicate himself to saving lives. Recognising the difference Rod was making Addaction chose to employ him as a substance misuse worker. My words aren’t doing justice to this selfless unassuming man so I will share my personal story.

A year ago I was an emotionally bankrupt, psychologically disturbed woman. Under the threat of being sectioned under the mental health act or facing an ASBO due to the number of times emergency services had attended my address I agreed to being admitted to a psychiatric unit. Now I am a dedicated mother, attending college and contributing to society in a positive manner.

His success in supporting others to overcome addiction created a need for him to create a recovery community. He spent his days off travelling all over Scotland searching for practical advice that would enable him to create what was now needed. His vision started as a recovery cafe which after mere months has become so much more. Rod created Serendipity. A charity which provides what our community needs. He has created a Serendipity ... board. We members now give the lifeline that Rod freely gave us to other addicts.

Addiction will never provide cute, fuzzy photo ops. Addaction will never be a sexy, popular charity to donate to. Addiction is real, gritty, shameful—an illness which we pretend doesn’t exist in our scenic, rural pretty border towns.

Rod gives inspirational quotes which reach the heart of addicts. He freely gives a kind word, gentle hug or kick up the backside to us all.

He will forever be my hero. I owe Rod a debt which can never be repaid.”

I was privileged to have Rod Anderson accept my invitation to be my local hero, although I know that he will be embarrassed by the fuss. I also know that there are other Rod Andersons working for Addaction, supporting vulnerable people and helping them to recover and turn their lives into something positive.

I have since visited Addaction in Galashiels—having praised Rod Anderson, I nevertheless know that the charity’s work is a team effort, as they say. There is a dedicated and professional team of workers, complemented by volunteers, recovery champions and students, who work hard to reduce harm and promote recovery among people who are affected by substance misuse.

Here are some statistics from Addaction Borders. Under the heading “Front end crisis intervention alcohol and drugs”, for “Injecting Equipment Provision” there were

“in the year nearly 70 new people with around 60 using the service each month”.

For “Naloxone saving lives”, there were

“in the year more than 100 kits supplied and more than 50 used in an emergency”.

Under the heading “Planned care”, there were referrals of

“in the year more than 450 people, about three quarters”

with alcohol abuse issues and

“one quarter”

with drug issues, with the

“vast majority seen within 3 weeks”.

The service has an active case load and there are around

“120 on the books at any time across the whole of the Borders”.

On discharges, there were

“Nearly 50% planned, with many reduced or stopped their drugs or alcohol”.

There are three busy mutual aid groups in Galashiels, Peebles and Hawick. Recovery activities cover employability, so people move to jobs, education or training; a volunteer programme that is certificated through Borders College; a women’s group that is run jointly with criminal justice services; and a music group that meets fortnightly in Galashiels.

Despite the forthcoming hiatus of a general election that we have heard about today, we should remember that, in the everyday world, charities such as Addaction simply get on with the job of helping and supporting people whose lives are falling apart. Those people have far bigger problems on their mind than Brexit, and their lives are turned around thanks to Addaction and its staff and volunteers.


I welcome the debate, and I am pleased to join Christine Grahame in recognising the good work that is carried out by Addaction, in particular at the Galashiels site. Drug and alcohol addiction remains a serious issue in our communities. Addiction is a terrifying disease that, when it takes hold, has the ability to destroy the person and the lives of their family and friends. Addaction, through its work, fights addiction. It seeks to help people with addiction issues, and it helps their families, friends and communities. It provides help for anyone who needs its services when they are faced with addiction.

Addaction started in Scotland in 2004 and is now the largest provider of drug and alcohol support services in the country. It has expertise in issues ranging from early years work, community recovery and rehabilitation, work with older people and harm reduction to education and employment. The work done by Addaction is vital for the lives of those who fight addiction and for their loved ones.

Addaction is making an impact: it has 98 sites across the UK—23 of which are in Scotland, including the site in Galashiels—supporting tens of thousands of people, including 1,000 families.

As Christine Grahame mentioned, one of those helped is project worker Rod Anderson, who is from the Borders. Wanting to give back to Addaction, he set up the Serendipity recovery cafe with Addaction’s support. Mr Anderson became a recovery champion for Addaction Scotland in 2014, and then became a full-time project worker. He is an example of the positive impact that Addaction has on people’s lives and, of course, his story is not the only success.

However, let us be realistic: drug and alcohol misuse is not going away any time soon. In Scotland, alcohol alone claims 22 lives a week and costs £3.5 billion each year. That highlights the crucial need for charities such as Addaction and the mammoth task that they face in fighting the disease.

A report from the Scottish Parliament information centre states that, in Scotland, problem drug use is disproportionately high compared with that in England and other European countries. The latest available data shows that more than 700 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland in 2015 and 73 per cent of drug-related deaths in 2015 involved individuals aged 35 or over—and that is despite drug use falling overall.

However, Scottish Conservative research has shown that, in half of Scotland’s 14 health board areas, support for alcohol and drug partnerships has fallen this year, which contradicts a promise from the Scottish Government that treatment would be maintained at existing levels. Although the Scottish Borders has seen an increase in funding for those partnerships, funds have been cut by more than £200,000 in Dumfries and Galloway and by almost £700,000 in Lanarkshire. Furthermore, official statistics show that more than 1,100 inmates in our country’s prisons were caught either taking drugs or administering them to others in 2016—a seven-year high. Substance misuse in our prisons is undermining any attempts that are being made to rehabilitate criminals and ensure that prison is a secure place for people to work in. This is at a bit of a tangent, but all of us agree that the rehabilitation of offenders is critical for society, although it remains near impossible to achieve while drug taking remains so prevalent.

Tackling alcohol and drug misuse remains a highly important issue in Scotland, and we need a focused attempt to tackle it—working with local programmes rather than taking a blanket approach of substituting illegal drugs with methadone, without any meaningful progress in treatment.

Drugs and alcohol damage and even destroy our communities. Fantastic work is being done in an effort to eradicate their devastating impact, and I am fully supportive of such efforts—efforts made by Addaction, with the involvement of people such Rod Anderson. I wish both Addaction and Mr Anderson further success in their work.


I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, which states that I am a local councillor in Dumfries and Galloway.

I, too, thank Christine Grahame for lodging the motion and allowing the chamber the opportunity to celebrate the contribution of Addaction in our communities across Scotland. She highlighted the excellent work of the charity in the scenic, rural and pretty villages of the Scottish Borders—I think that those were the words that she used—and quite rightly so. In the short time that I have, I want to focus my comments on work more to the west of the South Scotland region, in Dumfries and Galloway in particular, although many of the challenges across the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, which are both largely rural areas, are very similar.

I recently visited Addaction’s Dumfries office—one of its 23 regional sites across Scotland—where I had the privilege of meeting the regional service manager, Hugh Robertson. It is clear that Hugh is passionate about the work of Addaction and leads a dedicated team that supports people across Dumfries and Galloway, working in close partnership with the national health service, Alcohol and Drugs Support South West Scotland and the local social work department. Few of the team were in the office behind the charity’s discreet front door when I visited. Instead, they were out in communities, providing personalised support and help to the hundreds of people battling with drugs and alcohol addiction in the region. Addaction provides that support in a number of ways, from individual face-to-face assessments to group sessions using mutual aid partnership meetings. It does that in an entirely non-judgmental and personalised manner, putting the goals of the service user first, and the results are impressive.

In the year from April 2016, Addaction has had 550 people in Dumfries and Galloway leave its service, with 449 of those service users attending at least one appointment. Two hundred and ninety-two service users—64 per cent—achieved a planned and positive outcome, far exceeding the service’s target of 40 per cent. It was a surprise to me that most of those benefiting from the service are self-referrals, often turning to Addaction for support at a time of crisis, whether that is after a drink-driving charge or, sometimes, after the breakdown of a marriage, making the challenge all the more difficult for the team at Addaction. However, Addaction is there for them in their time of need—in Hugh Robertson’s words, it helps them to find the person that in many cases their addictions stole from them.

On my visit, I was incredibly struck to learn that older people make up a growing number of those who face addictions. The proportion of problem drug users who are male and aged between 35 to 64 in Scotland has increased from 43 per cent in 2009-10 to 51 per cent in 2012-13, and 73 per cent of drug-related deaths in 2015 were of individuals aged 35 or over. That group of older drug users is set to grow in size. That makes the recent decision by the Government to reduce direct funding for drug and alcohol treatment and support services all the more disappointing.

In 2016-17, the allocation to NHS boards for alcohol and drug partnerships was £53.8 million—down from £69.2 million in 2015-16. In Dumfries and Galloway, that led to a cut in direct funding from £1.98 million to £1.53 million. Although health boards were asked to make up that difference, Dumfries and Galloway was able to find only £234,000 of the £452,000 shortfall. The cut led to a 20 per cent reduction in funding for Addaction in Dumfries and Galloway and as a result the team in the region was reduced from 18 people to 12.

However, Addaction continues to do a fantastic job right across Dumfries and Galloway, so I once again thank Christine Grahame for bringing the issue to the chamber and I wish Addaction well as it celebrates its 50th year. In particular, I thank Addaction for all the work that it does in Dumfries and Galloway and across the south of Scotland.


I, too, welcome the debate and I congratulate Christine Grahame on securing it. I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests as a member of the management board of Moving On (Inverclyde). I intend to touch on some aspects of Moving On in my speech.

Christine Grahame’s motion is certainly helpful and it has been a reminder of the Addaction exhibition in Parliament in February. I spoke to the Addaction representative at the exhibition and I was greatly impressed by what they had to say and how they are working to help many people in the areas that they cover.

Addaction does not operate in Inverclyde, but we have a range of other organisations working with those with addictions. Whether it is Addaction or other organisations, including Moving On, it is not an easy job. It is a job that is tough to undertake, as many people with addictions live chaotic lifestyles. That affects everything from the person’s health to their housing situation, their family life, and their social activities. The challenges are vast, but the rewards are immense when someone manages to turn their life around and leaves the life of addiction. That shows that working with people and treating them as individuals and human beings can work.

As the motion states, Addaction

“is the largest organisation of its kind”.

That is where the comparison with Moving On ends, as it is a small, grass-roots organisation that employs six people. It is a well-established local organisation and, in the past five years, 750 people have sought support. The staff at Moving On recognise that it is impossible to help someone with one great leap; small steps are required to move people forward.

From a personal perspective, smaller organisations such as Moving On do not get the national recognition that they deserve. They do not have the larger number of staff that would enable them to promote their activities. I do not say that as a point of criticism of any organisation; I am merely stating that as a fact.

I welcome the promotion of organisations that are undertaking such work because it is crucial to highlight the positive activity that is under way across Scotland. We need to hear about the positive activity that takes place to turn people’s lives around. It is all too easy to highlight the many negative situations regarding addiction. Positive work takes place, and Addaction plays its part, as do other organisations across Scotland.

The total number of drug deaths in 2015 was 706, including 16 in Inverclyde, where drug deaths have unfortunately doubled in the past 10 years. There were 33 alcohol-related deaths in 2015 in Inverclyde, which had the second-highest number of deaths per 1,000 people from drugs and alcohol in 2015 in Scotland, behind Dundee. That gives members of the Parliament a picture of the challenge that we all face.

I thank Christine Grahame for lodging the motion and securing the debate, which I welcome. I also pass on my gratitude to Addaction, Moving On and many other organisations that work daily with people with addictions. The challenge to turn somebody’s life around is huge, and the workers who deliver that daily deserve a huge amount of credit and praise. They deliver life-changing work that makes a positive difference to help our fellow citizens.


I thank Christine Grahame for bringing this debate to the chamber.

We live in a time when drug overdoses kill more than twice as many people in the UK per year than road traffic accidents, and when the mortality rate from drug poisoning is at its highest since records began. That puts a significant burden on the NHS to treat the consequences of drugs, and on our police to enforce the law in the face of a complex and ever-expanding network of distribution and consumption. In fact, I read only last Friday in The Courier that Superintendent Derek McEwan, from Police Scotland’s Fife division, said that it was “only a matter of time” before dangerous new legal highs become more widespread in Tayside and in the north-east, which I represent. In these dark and challenging times, the vital work of Addaction has been a beacon of hope and optimism.

Addaction has evolved over the last 50 years to develop a wide expertise in community alcohol and drug addiction support and rehabilitation, blood-borne virus treatment, bespoke sexual health advice, and education, employment and welfare issues. Throughout those years, Addaction has held true to its core approach: treating people with dignity and respect, putting individual needs at the heart of its work, and not wavering in the belief that addiction should never be allowed to cripple or end a life—recovery is possible, and indeed probable, with the right framework of care and support.

I have been most struck by Addaction’s work with young people across the UK. Andrew was just 14 when he started taking cocaine and ecstasy as a means to combat his Asperger’s syndrome. What began as a means to feel more sociable and outgoing became a devastating addiction that caused Andrew to suffer paranoid delusions, extreme agitation and palpitations. Young people like Andrew often feel isolated and unable to talk to anyone about their problems; they do not wish to anger their parents or teachers, nor do they want to feel embarrassed or ashamed among their friends and peers. That is where young Addaction stepped in to provide support and treatment for Andrew, not just for his addiction, but with practical advice and guidance on managing his Asperger’s syndrome. He now works in an information technology retailer; his confidence has grown vastly and he lives a happy, stable and drug-free life.

I also want to take a moment to draw attention to the incredible work of young Addaction Dundee, a successful partnership between Addaction Dundee and The Corner, which targets young people aged between 11 and 18.

The tragic stories of young people dying as a result of drugs resonate with us all in the chamber. We hear of new drugs emerging almost every week, and of so-called legal highs having devastating consequences. In response to that, I launched Aberdeen against legal highs and lodged motions in Aberdeen City Council to raise public awareness of the dangers of legal highs.

I remain committed to combating the epidemic of legal highs and to making our streets safe and drug free, and I commend the fantastic work of Addaction in contributing to that cause. The work of Addaction, in Scotland and across the United Kingdom, in providing specialist advice and early intervention programmes in schools and youth clubs has saved countless lives over the years.

After reading Andrew’s story and hearing the many powerful contributions in the chamber today, it has become clear to me that Addaction is more than just an addiction charity. It provides support for those who have none, hope for those who think that all is lost and a future for those who cannot see a way forward.


Like other members, I am grateful to Christine Grahame for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I am pleased to close the debate on behalf of the Government. Like many members, I was able to take time to visit the Addaction exhibition and hear at first hand about its work. As Ms Grahame did, I welcome the visitors from Addaction to the Parliament.

I am pleased that the motion has attracted cross-party support. There is a commitment in the chamber to ensure that some of our most vulnerable people access the care and support that they need, and that that is delivered in the context of a recovery-oriented system of care. Christine Grahame’s contribution was incredibly powerful and showed the transformative impact that a person-centred approach can bring. She spoke about Rod Anderson, who works in the Borders and who sounds like an incredibly special person. He has created the first recovery community in the area. We heard that those whom he has helped articulated that as him giving their children a future or saving their life. That shows how lives can be and have been turned around if people are given the right help, if their addiction is seen as a health problem and if the stigma can be removed.

Christine Grahame was correct to point out that addiction does not just happen in the gritty urban areas and that it happens in our remote and rural communities, too. We therefore need to take a national approach and recognise that we cannot simply brush the issue under the carpet.

Our drugs strategy, “The Road to Recovery: A New Approach to Tackling Scotland’s Drug Problem”, is a framework that has at its heart an aspiration to support those facing drug-use problems and their families and to see that through a health lens. Although the strategy remains as robust and relevant as it was when it was launched with cross-party support, the challenges and context of tackling substance misuse have nevertheless changed.

As members have pointed out, we have an increasing and ageing cohort of older drug users, who require particular support to help to keep them safe. In addition, the challenges that are posed by new psychoactive substances have been well documented in the chamber as we undertake a cross-party approach to tackling them.

We continue to work with the drug and alcohol sector to look afresh at how we might make further progress on addiction issues. The partnership for action on drugs in Scotland, which I chair, is currently providing its thoughts on the extent to which we need to refresh our thinking while retaining the ambitions that are set out in “The Road to Recovery”. I am delighted that Andrew Horne from Addaction Scotland is part of those discussions, and I am incredibly grateful to him and others for their energy, commitment and candour, which is informed by years of experience in delivering high-quality drug, alcohol and mental health services to those who need them.

I am delighted that the minister has mentioned the Scottish leadership of Addaction. I know that her diary is very busy, but I invite her to visit Addaction in Galashiels and see the hands-on experience and teamwork there. We have mentioned Rod Anderson a lot, but it is a team, and the minister might find a visit useful.

Absolutely. When Addaction was at the Parliament, it was good to get a chance to speak to Andrew Horne and to hear at first hand about some of the really transformative work that Addaction is doing across the country in the many settings in which it has a footprint. I am interested in visiting Addaction in Galashiels, particularly as it has been so instrumental in creating the first recovery community in the Borders. That will be helpful in ensuring that people recognise that, as Christine Grahame said in her speech, addiction issues do not just happen in urban centres and that they happen across the country. We need to ensure that that is heard clearly by people across the country.

Of course, addiction relates not only to drugs misuse; it includes issues with alcohol. Through our alcohol framework for action, we have taken bold action to tackle and reduce the damage that alcohol causes. That framework includes a package of more than 40 measures to reduce alcohol-related harm. In recent years, we have made progress. Alcohol-related harm has reduced but it is still at unacceptably high levels. With 22 alcohol-related deaths and 670 alcohol-related hospital admissions a week, we need to do more. We are refreshing our framework and will build on the progress that we have made so far.

Given the link between affordability, consumption and harm, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse. Therefore, we remain absolutely committed to implementing minimum unit pricing, which will tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol that does much damage in our communities.

Addaction has a strong reputation for delivering high-quality services and for embedding lived experience and user involvement in its governance and service delivery. Echoing Rod Anderson and the team in Galashiels, Andrew Horne has been supporting some work to ensure that people with lived experience can be heard as we develop policy approaches at a national level.

We must never be complacent. We must always strive to improve the quality of services and seek to bring consistency across Scotland. Addaction is a national organisation, but I am aware of the range of local statutory and third sector services that operate across the country and provide much-needed support to people who have a substance misuse addiction.

The development of national standards of care—set out in our quality principles—a clear set of outcomes for alcohol and drug partnerships and a shared statement on workforce development remains critical as part of the framework within which excellence in local delivery can flourish. However, there remains a place for innovation, and I was delighted that my officials recently wrote to Addaction to confirm that it has been successful in securing funding from the Scottish Government for a project that will, where appropriate, pilot and test the opportunities that digital technology presents for reaching out and engaging with clients.

Christine Grahame’s motion specifically invites us to tackle problem substance use as a health and social care issue, rather than a criminal justice one. Although there is a place for the criminal justice system, the aspiration to divert people away from criminal sanction at the earliest opportunity is to be welcomed and should continue. We should build upon that in however we develop our drugs policy, strategy and approach. That must be managed well, and I am aware of many innovative and successful schemes in Scotland and elsewhere to ensure that people whose offending behaviour is exacerbated by addiction are supported in a person-centred treatment pathway.

That principle should be true irrespective of whether someone is in prison. I recently had the opportunity to offer views on that matter to the Health and Sport Committee when it considered prisoner healthcare. I look forward to seeing the committee’s conclusions.

The Government made a decision in November 2012 to transfer responsibility for healthcare from the Scottish Prison Service to the NHS for the reasons set out in the motion—to ensure that people who spend time in prison can expect the same level of care and attention as those who receive help in the community. The responsibility for drugs policy moved in April 2016 from the justice portfolio to my health portfolio. That demonstrates the Government’s commitment to look at substance misuse through a different lens and to address it in the wider context of the public health challenges that we face.

I further congratulate Addaction and thank it and organisations like it for all that they do. I renew my commitment to tackle the problem in a fresh way, drawing on the expertise and perspectives available, including those of people with lived experience. Christine Grahame is right that, as we debate Brexit and prepare for another election, groups such as Addaction are saving lives, giving children a future and providing much-needed support. We need to continue to look at addiction through a health lens so that we continue to make the progress that we and our country need to ensure that public health services in Scotland can ensure that everybody, regardless of the health issues that they face, gets their fair chance to flourish.

Meeting closed at 17:34.