THE UK Government has done a U-turn and decided it will attend a drug death summit in Glasgow.

Following the publication of record drug deaths statistics in July, the Evening Times called for an emergency drug death summit in the city and asked the UK Government, Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to attend.

Joe Fitzpatrick, Scottish Public Health Minister said he would seek to host such a summit and Glasgow City Council said yes to facilitating and attending.

However UK ministers said no. The Evening Times wrote to Boris Johnson, who was then in a leadership contest with Jeremy Hunt to be Prime Minister, Sajid Javid who was Home secretary and Victoria Atkins, then Drugs Minister.

But none would commit to come to Glasgow to discuss the problem and seek solutions.

Drug deaths increased by 40% to 280 in Glasgow last year, a record high while in Scotland the total was 1187 deaths.

As recently as last month Kit Malthouse, Crime and Policing minister responded to Mr Fitzpatrick to say he could not commit to attend a summit in Glasgow but wished the government well with it.

READ MORE: Suspected drug deaths in Scotland hit 550 in six months

Now, however, Mr Malthouse has stated publicly he wants to hold a summit in Glasgow which he said was where the “heart of the problem” exists in Scotland.

The minister told the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster:“I do recognise Scotland in particular has a problem that we need to get together and sort out.

“So what my suggestion is, I would quite like to hold a proper joined up summit in Glasgow, where we invite all four nations and in particular areas of England and Wales say Swansea, Liverpool, Blackpool that have particular problems to come and talk about how we are going to collectively address some of these issues.”

He said while he had an open mind about a drug consumption facility, that the Government has so far refused to allow, he said that treatment was the most effective way to reduce deaths.

He said there were “legal and philosophical” problems with drug consumption rooms and they only reached a small number of people.

Mr Malthouse told he MPs on the committee that the drugs were produced illegally sold, illegally and taken illegally.

He said the money that would be invested in a drug consumption room would save more lives if it was invested in treatment instead.

Adding that investment in Heroin Assisted Treatment, naloxone to reverse overdose and methadone and other substitutes and better investment in recovery is a better route to reducing drug deaths.

READ MORE: Glasgow's homeless units to be supplied with Naloxone anti-overdose nasal sprays

He added: “I think there is more compelling evidence about treatment. I’m happy to have the discussion about drug consumption rooms but I would like to see a bigger scale of investment in treatment.”

Scottish Government welcomed the change of heart and said that a drug consumption room must be on the agenda.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We’ve repeatedly invited the UK Government to attend a summit in Glasgow on drug deaths and have been extremely disappointed that they have, to date, refused to attend.

“I hope that this is confirmation that they have u-turned and will now take part, alongside members of our Drug Death Taskforce and people with lived experience, in order to help shape action to reduce the harms and deaths caused by drugs.

“One of the first items on the agenda for a summit must be the calls in Glasgow for a medically supervised overdose prevention facility. These facilities can save lives and I would urge the UK Government to take the necessary steps to either allow them to be created or to devolve the powers to Scotland so that we can.”

Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “Glasgow has been waiting for the Home Office to take this issue seriously so, if this is a sign that Kit Malthouse is now ready to work with the city, then of course I welcome his input.
“However, the Minister needs to come here with an open mind.”