COUNCILLORS have voted to declare a drugs death emergency in North Ayrshire and have urged central government to decriminalise users in a bid to tackle the ongoing drugs crisis.

The motion which was brought forward by Labour Councillor Louise McPhater, who lost her sister through drug addiction in 2011, passed at the latest full council meeting with 23 councillors voting in favour following an amendment from Councillor Anthea Dickson.

During the meeting a visibly emotional Councillor McPhater made a passionate plea to councillors to back her motion.

She said: “Drug addiction is something that is all too familiar with myself as my sister died in 2011 through drug addiction.

“This issue affects every postcode. Nobody is exempt, no family, no community.

“We are seeing the people in our communities that need our help first-hand and it is not only drug addiction but mental health issues too, and it just continues and continues.

“We need to stop this and make amends to try and address this because there is great work going on out there, but we need to look at this in a different way.”

The Labour Councillor continued: “If there is a method that has proved to be successful and you can see that it is working and is reducing the number of deaths then that is something that this and other councils should be taking forward and looking at. Because I don’t want to go to another funeral of a 17-year-old, of a 25-year-old or a 31-year-old and I don’t want to visit a new-born baby that is born with an addiction because we are now onto the third generation of addictions.

“Let’s get this work done and make the change now.”

The full motion reads: “Data published in 2018 showed that Scotland has the highest level of drug related deaths across Europe, here in North Ayrshire the level of drug related deaths are above the Scottish average.

Accordingly, North Ayrshire Council agrees:

1. To declare a drugs death emergency and requests the Health and Social Care Partnership to convene a drugs death summit of Community Planning Partners to consider multi-disciplinary local drug policy, funding and service improvements.

2. That the Chief Executive write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport to strongly urge the Scottish Government to declare drug related deaths as a public health emergency in Scotland and seek a commitment to making real terms funding increases towards Alcohol and Drug Partnerships.

3. That the Chief Executive write to the Home Secretary seeking the devolution of drug powers to Scotland that would allow Drug Consumption Rooms in Scotland and permit the decriminalisation of drug possession which has proved hugely successful in countries such as Portugal.”