Tag Archives: public health

We need to talk about drug addiction, decriminalisation, legalisation and regulation

It’s time to look again at our policy on drugs,  a topic which we can ‘own,’  which will get us noticed In the media and, which will differentiate us from Labour and Conservatives.

I’m not talking about cannabis, recreational use has become almost mainstream, is  more or less ignored by the police and is certainly far, far less harmful than either tobacco and /or alcohol, -that is established medical fact.

The medicinal uses of cannabis are now being acknowledged and established, even if there is a long way to go on further research and getting the medical supply chain organised.

No, I want us to talk about the hard stuff; class A, like heroin and cocaine. This is the topic where a change in mind-set is needed,  an end to ‘the war on drugs’, and if that can be achieved the medical and societal gains will be huge.

Since the general election in 2019 we Liberal Democrats and to a lesser extent Labour have become more or less invisible; – not surprising in the face of a national and international health emergency of monumental proportions. But, as the total incompetence of the Johnson Tory government on almost every front becomes  more obvious with every  passing month, it’s high time for us to emerge from the shadows and start some proper debate on some fresh topics both in health and beyond, and  which might get us some useful media coverage as a bonus.

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Rennie: Tackle drug addiction with compassion and treatment, not imprisonment

Liberal Democrats care about people being able to fulfil their potential and getting the care and support they need to recover from illness and addiction. That’s why our Scottish manifesto highlights the need to take a public health approach to addiction. Scotland has the highest drug deaths rate in Europe, something which became very real to a friend of mine recently when her son died after taking street valium. Typically, she thought of others before herself and allowed the BBC to film his funeral.

Willie Rennie said today that the next Scottish Government will only end the drug deaths crisis through compassion and health treatment, not prosecution, as he revealed new figures showing 605 people convicted of possession without intent to supply being sent to prison.

Meanwhile, only 108 people received a Drug Treatment and Testing Order during the same three year period (2016/17 to 2018/19).

1264 people died of drug related causes in 2019. Each of them were individuals with talents and skills. Each of them loved and had people loving them. Pretty much 3 people a day lose their lives and each one of them, with the right intervention, could still be alive today.

So the Scottish Liberal Democrats, looking to the best evidence, has the following measures to tackle the harm that drug addiction causes to people and communities that are focused on help and support. The party will:

  • Reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution.
  • Take radical steps with the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
  • Establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.
  • Divert people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances.
  • Protect and enhance drug and alcohol partnership budgets, and adopt the principle that individuals and families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol.
  • Use emergency housing funding to help people keep their homes and tenancies while they undergo treatment and rehabilitation.

Willie Rennie said:

The SNPs failure was more than just a political failure, it was a failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people.

Not only did the SNP fail to take the necessary action to save lives, they made it worse by cutting the alcohol and drug partnership budgets, surrendering services and expertise.

It was admitted in 2017 that essential drug reforms weren’t pursued because it wasn’t seen as a vote winner. This is political negligence of the highest order.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. We will reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution. After years of being told no, Scottish Liberal Democrats have just won cross-party agreement for that important principle.

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We should be for – the rule of law!

Liberal self identity, or libertarian self indulgence? Personal autonomy vs political authority? Subjective rather than objective? The individual not society? Where is the balance in pitting things, one against the other, and where is the harmony in the lack of balance?

The Covid-19 crisis, has led us to where the fears, concerns, obsessions, priorities, of years, are questioned, or should be, in weeks. No ideology fairs well in this, from left to right. My own view is, the centre ground so many decry, has never had a try. We have had extremes, in tandem. Moderate societies, that have had fewer disruptions, …

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It’s time we talked about legalising drugs

There is currently much noise around the (unsurprising) news that a senior politician, who was once a journalist, spending much time in a large city in the UK, has taken drugs during his life – we’re taking illicit drugs here, cocaine, in Mr Gove’s case.

Despite some moral outrage, there has been a surprising shift in the criticism. Much of the condemnation has been around the hypocrisy of a cabinet minister. A minister who is wedded to a policy which criminalises users of drugs, as opposed to the actual taking.

I’m going to concentrate here on the argument to legalise drugs. There is, of course, much debate to be had, so I’m happy for you to contact me for further debate, and do your own research too (TRANSFORM, The Loop, Volte Face and Anyone’s Child are great places to start). I argue for legalising, not decriminalising drugs. Whilst users could seek better support, “decrim” leaves the manufacture, trafficking and supply of the drugs in criminal hands – that doesn’t really move us on much.

So, we have two choices when it comes to legalising drugs.

  1. We leave things as they are.
  1. We legalise and regulate, via state control. This would:
  • Reduce the black market for the manufacture and trafficking of drugs, which also includes human trafficking, including sexual abuse and other horrific issues in what is referred to as “they supply chain”
  • Increase health support for people who require it (we also need to be honest that not everyone who uses is addicted or dependent) and reduce the needless deaths in our families, towns and cities
  • Increase education regarding support, but also safer usage. Also unlock research into currently illegal drugs; some initial research suggests some illicit drugs could be used, as a start, to tackle schizophrenia and various cancers
  • Make the supply subject to legal controls – you wouldn’t accept alcohol mixed with rat poison, so why should people have it in their cocaine? Also this means age controls, labelling and proper quality control
  • Reduce gang crime, violent knife and gun crimes, and seriously tackle the “county lines” issue. We can’t just ask the Police to endlessly run around after gangs who supply – a gang removed can be replaced by a new one in less than hour. Speaking to the Police in many places, they often can be found to privately support changing the law, because the “war on drugs” isn’t winning – LEAP UK is a great source of information. 
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20 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Today is topped and tailed by Brexit, hardly unusual, but there is also some good stuff responding to today’s events…

  • Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course
  • Govt must act to prevent deaths on our streets
  • Govt must end ‘wild west’ drone market
  • Lib Dems: Public health cuts demonstrate Tories’ duplicity
  • Alun Cairns Must Resign if UK Government Back No Deal – Welsh Lib Dems

Rival Brexit plans reveal Govt without a course

Responding to rival Brexit plans set out by Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has said:

While people at home over Christmas will be worried

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Mobile phones: do parents need to turn them off as much as their children?

Today whilst sitting in a local café I saw something vaguely disturbing – which I seem to see almost every day now. This may be rather an unusual subject for a blog, but I just had to sit down and write this piece. A parent had obviously just picked up his daughter from school – she was maybe five or six year’s old – and taken her out for a well-meaning treat. But after five minutes or so, I noticed her just staring out of the window. The father was on his mobile phone for almost the entire length of the time that I was there – at least twenty minutes, if not longer.

The child would intermittently try to get her father’s attention, saying look at this or that, but he would glance across at her with a quick smile and then carry on scrolling – and scrolling, not taking any meaningful interest in what she was saying. They were in my line of sight so I could not escape the whole thing. The little girl was trying so hard to engage with her father, but his attention was elsewhere. In the end I think she just gave up. Maybe he had something very important to sort out, it is not for me to judge, but I have seen this pattern of behaviour repeated many times – especially on train journeys. It is strange how we so often criticise children and adolescents for spending too much time on their phones, when their parents can be at least as culpable. Sometimes there are also safety implications; I have seen the parents of small children using their phones whilst crossing the road, with their young charges walking ahead unsupervised.

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The sugar tax is as liberal as they come

Andy Briggs recently wrote on this blog that “any Liberal government worth its salt would repeal the sugar tax”. Certainly, the justifications that the government has given are to do with deterrence, and I agree that those are illiberal – but there is a much more compelling reason to support the principle of this policy, and one which goes right to the core of liberalism.

It is undeniable that a diet of sugary foods leads to obesity, and undeniable that obesity is one of the great killers in this country. But not only that, it’s costly – according

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Nick Clegg opposes banning smoking in cars with children present

Speaking on Call Clegg this morning, Nick Clegg said that he personally wan’t in favour of changing the law to ban smoking in cars where children are present. The question came about as a consequence of a vote in the Lords last night. MPs will now be given a free vote on whether to incorporate it into the Children and Families Bill.

Nick made it clear that he would be voting against:

Of course it’s a stupid thing to do to smoke when a child is in the back of a car but you don’t always have to have a law

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Opinion: Devil in disguise, new drug, same old lies

There’s another new drug in town, and the System is being cranked up to counter its insidious spread. This drug is increasingly popular among the young, who consider it exotic and often try it when abroad. It’s called “The Devil in Disguise” in government propaganda, because of its supposedly devastating health effects – just one session of this drug is equivalent to smoking 100-200 cigarettes, so say the “experts”, and it can even harm nearby children.

What is it? Well, it’s the shisha water pipe (“hookah”), with tobacco. There is growing anti-shisha propaganda around, which I don’t have a problem with …

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Norman Lamb: Support for Volunteer Groups across our Health and Care System

Charities and not-for-profit organisations offer an extraordinary range of care services across the UK. They offer millions of people access to high-quality treatment, advice and support. Brilliant innovation in care often happens in this sector. It is critical that the NHS works hand in hand with third sector organisations to make full use of the important work that they carry out in enabling people to live healthier, more independent lives.

Last week I announced the latest round of funding for the Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development (IESD) Fund, which is designed to support voluntary groups in promoting health and wellbeing in local communities.

The …

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The Independent View: rheumatoid arthritis and public awareness

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the body instead of defending it, causing inflammation that often results in serious damage to bones, joints and tendons, and can also affect internal organs like the heart, eyes and lungs. Currently the disease affects an estimated 690,000 people across the UK.

To coincide with the launch of the first national Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week, NRAS has today published a major new report on public awareness of the disease called ‘Breaking Down Barriers’, which includes a ComRes survey of over 2000 members of the British …

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Opinion: Are current state pension arrangements fair?

Two stories jumped out at me this week as being deeply connected. Stephen Tall praised Ed Balls for not ignoring the huge chunk of welfare spending that goes to pensioners. Then, a new website from Public Health England reminded us of the country’s large health inequalities. These inequalities should give us extra cause to question the fairness of current spending on pensioners.

As Stephen wrote “Spending on the state pension will increase by nearly 20% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2017–18.” The challenge of an ageing population was present even before the financial crisis. It’s now …

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Opinion: Government must act to encourage healthier diets

Yesterday, Chris Rennard and John Sharkey raised the important and inter-connected issues of sugar consumption and childhood obesity, respectively, during Oral Questions in the Lords.

These related topics prompted fifteen minutes of debate from a packed Chamber, as the responding Minister – Earl Howe – spelt out what the Government is doing to encourage healthier eating and prevent the problems associated with poor diet and lack of exercise, from worsening.

John Sharkey began proceedings by pointing out that not one of the companies signed up to the responsibility deal for calorie reduction is a fast-food operator. He …

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Trans-fats, your health and politics

Do you eat cakes, chocolate bars, ready meals or chips from a take-away? Who doesn’t eat some occasionally? All those foods I mentioned and many others may contain high levels of compounds called trans-fats or trans-fatty acids.

The reason that trans-fats are important is because they cause much higher levels of heart disease – and yet we rarely hear about them. Trans-fats are an unnatural product of food processing. Vegetable oils are sometimes chemically treated by “hydrogenation” to give them a thicker consistency or they are purified at a high temperature. Food manufacturers do this to increase storage life …

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Opinion: Health & Social Care Bill – a local government perspective

Media coverage and comment so far since the Bill was published last week has been largely about GP commissioning, and the abolition of Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities. Naturally there will be risks associated with such an enormous transfer of financial responsibility, but we should most certainly not overlook the underlying localist and patient-centred philosophy, and the opportunities for GPs to become more engaged with a wider health and wellbeing approach in every locality.

GP practices operate in local communities, and councillors are elected to represent those same communities. How should we work with them more …

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    Paul Barker, this weeks result are NOT unrepresenative of what has been happening generally, beware the Greens, we need a strategy to combat them.....
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    @ Michael BG Good one!😊...
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    Its true that in this tiny, unrepresentative bunch of by-elections, we are more down than up & The Greens more up than down. Has that been true of the last...
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    Helen would be marvellous on the housing one. Anybody reading ought to consider her properly....
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