29 May 2024

The 2024 general election: Our priorities for a new government


The 2024 general election represents a very real opportunity for political parties to recommit to our sector, reduce drug and alcohol harm, and build on the progress that has been made in recent years. 

The political commitment and investment made through the 2021 Drugs Strategy and National Mission in Scotland has seen the quality and capacity of services improve, however the confirmed vital additional investment made is now coming to an end.

There is now a real risk of these policy agendas being de-prioritised.  

Our priorities for a new government are:

1. Invest in drug and alcohol treatment

The investment made to deliver the 2021 Drugs Strategy and Scotland’s National Mission are improving the quality and capacity of drug and alcohol services. More people are now getting the right support and treatment. 

To continue to improve the quality of drug and alcohol services, long-term investment must be sustained, and funding must move beyond short-term cycles.

The next government must:

  • Urgently provide continued funding for the delivery of the Drugs Strategy post March 2025, when current funding come to an end 

  • Commit politically to this policy agenda, and commit to a long-term funding plan for the duration of the 10 year Drugs Strategy

  • Work with the sector to widen how success is measured, beyond narrow metrics such as ‘numbers in treatment’

2. Save lives by preventing drug-related deaths

The number of drug-related deaths in England and Scotland are continuing to rise, and are at the highest levels on record. Each one of these deaths represents a tragic loss of life, and impacts families and communities across the country. This crisis will continue to get worse with the increasing prevalence of synthetic drugs contaminating illicit drug markets. 

The reasons behind this public health crisis are deep-rooted and complex, but these deaths are not inevitable - and we must not stand back and accept them. Drug-related deaths are preventable with the right support, treatment and policy-making.

To reduce drug-related deaths, the next government must:

  • Continue to invest high-quality opiate substitution treatment, and support services in improving access and engagement

  • Urgently expand access to existing harm reduction interventions, and support the implementation of new harm reduction interventions to address the risks posed by contaminated drugs, such as overdose prevention centres, widespread drug testing, and funding for heroin-assisted treatment services 

3. Take action to reduce alcohol harm

Despite there being over 10,000 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK in 2022, a 32.8% increase since 2019, and around one million hospital admissions related to alcohol in 2021/22, only 1 in 5 of the UK’s over 600,000 dependent drinkers are accessing treatment and support.  

However, alcohol treatment works. For those who access treatment, 60% leave treatment after successfully completing it and investing in alcohol treatment delivers a £3 return on investment for every £1 invested. 

To reduce alcohol harm, the next government must:

  • Deliver a standalone strategy for reducing alcohol harm 

  • Explore population-level measures to reduce alcohol harm, including measures on affordability, restrictions on alcohol advertising

We look forward to working with a new government on these priorities, and how we can collectively achieve them.