A DEDICATED government task force set up to tackle risking overdose deaths in Scotland is to get to work later this month.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick MSP said the first meeting of the expert group will take place on September 17.

There were 1,187 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2018 – a 27% increase on 2017 with 280 recorded in Glasgow, a 40% rise.

The group will be chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson of the University of Stirling and will include 23 members with a range of expertise and experience in the substance use and related-fields.

Read more: Shock images of addicts injecting on waste ground show city's drugs toll

The Evening Times has called on the UK Government, Scottish Government and local councils to hold an emergency summit after the latest drug death figures emerged. The Home Office said it would consider taking part.

Plans to open a Safer Drugs Consumption Centre (SDCC) have stalled because Westminister has said it will require a change in the law to allow addicts to bring 'street' heroin onto the premises. 

Glasgow City Council, however, is to open a centre giving drug users access to medical grade heroin.

Read more: Home Office to decide on emergency drugs summit backed by Evening Times 

David Liddell, CEO of Scottish Drugs Forum, called for "swiftand large scale action."

He said: “What we hope will emerge from their work is clear direction on how to impact on the tragic and escalating rates of preventable drug overdose deaths. 

“The key aims should be to follow the evidence of what works.

"We need to increase by at least 50% the number of people in drug treatment.

"Also, there is a need to improve access to treatment - people are currently waiting months for access to opioid substitution therapy. 

"As recommended elsewhere, services need to eliminate unplanned discharges - too many people fall out of services, too often through in-flexible or punitive practice.

"There is a general need to improve quality - potentially up to 50% of people receiving opioid substitution therapy are on sub-optimal doses.

“These issues are long standing and complex."