OVER the next few weeks, the Evening Times will take a closer look at the issues at stake in this General Election – so you have the facts to make your mind up on who you want to vote for.

TWENTY years ago, 96 people died a drug-related death in Glasgow.

The figures then, in 1999, sparked controversy as it was edging closer to 100.

Calls to action were issued and promises were made to tackle the scourge of drugs and the devastation of the communities most affected, addiction and the misery it brings individuals and families.

We often hear that addiction cuts across society and anyone can fall victim to its clutches.

That may be true but it was only the working-class communities that were ripped apart from the 1980s onwards because of drugs.

Across Glasgow, thousands of young men and women who would have previously gone into work were lost to drugs, either taking or dealing, sometimes both.

Places like Possilpark became synonymous with drug dealing and taking.

Easterhouse, Drumchapel and other areas in the city blighted by unemployment also became blighted by drugs.

In 1999 across Scotland, there were 291 drug-related deaths. Now 20 years later that number have died in Glasgow alone.

It cannot be described as anything other than a failure. Yes, drugs have been seized. Yes, many people have been helped but the cold hard facts show that since 1999 there have been 2463 people in Glasgow dead from drugs.

This year is almost certainly going to add more than 300 to that total.

Faces and Voices of Recovery, a campaign group to give a voice to individuals and organisations related to addiction and recovery, is calling for more residential rehab and for a range of support services to help people off drugs.

It has produced a report with 23 recommendations for solutions to the drugs crisis in Glasgow and Scotland.

They include an increase in the budget for treatment by at least 35% and more bed availability.

Chief executive Annemarie Ward said Scotland is lagging well behind the rest of Britain in rehab bed spaces and that there were six places for every 10,000 people in England but in Scotland it was six for every 100,000.

While recovery services, coming under health is devolved to Holyrood and the Scottish Government, drug laws are still reserved to Westminster.

Whether it is council, Holyrood or Westminster, those in need of help and those trying to prevent more deaths don’t care who acts, they want and need action.

Candidates in Glasgow have their own opinions on how to deal with the drug deaths crisis, some calling for a public health approach and some for more cash to be invested in treatment services.

Paul Sweeney, Labour candidate for Glasgow North East, said: “Labour is committed to permitting safe drug consumption room, but that is only a small part of the equation. We need to maximise opportunities for rehab and reinstate naloxone funding.

“Addiction services cuts need to be reversed.”

He added: “I have been saying this election is a matter of life or death for thousands of people across the UK and this is one example of that.”

In Glasgow, the Conservative Group on the council has backed plans for a safe consumption room.

Tony Curtis, is a Glasgow councillor but also Conservative candidate for Glasgow North. He is the party’s Glasgow spokesman on health and social care.

He said: “Drug deaths at their highest, homelessness in Glasgow the highest in Scotland.”

He said the Tories want to: “Reduce drug deaths by reforming methadone prescription and providing greater access to mental health services for drug users.”

The Greens favour a public health approach rather than criminal justice.

Scottish Greens candidate for Glasgow South Dan Hutchison said: “To tackle Scotland’s drug deaths crisis we must abandon the discredited war on drugs and adopt a public health approach. We must tackle the rampant inequality at the heart of our society which fuels this crisis and ensure the NHS has the funds it needs right now to work on this.

“Green MPs will make the case for the devolution of drug law, to allow a more compassionate, health focused approach to be adopted.

“We know that supervised consumption rooms, for instance, could help play a part in reducing the staggering number of deaths, but sheer bloody stubbornness from Westminster means this approach – so successful in other European countries – cannot even be trialled.”

SNP candidate for Glasgow Central Alison Thewliss said: “The drug death figures in Scotland are heart-breaking – we are facing a public health emergency and we desperately need all parties and Governments to come together to deliver a fresh approach. The drug summit must go ahead without further delay.

“The SNP has consistently called for – and will continue to push for – the UK Government to introduce legislation to allow for the implementation of Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities (SCDF) to tackle the issue of problem drug use. The Scottish Government’s Drugs Taskforce is working hard to establish solutions which will reduce drug-related harm and deaths.

“If re-elected I will use all Parliamentary means to push for changes in the outdated Misuse of Drugs Act, including bringing back my private member’s bill. If the next UK Government will not take the necessary steps, it must devolve the powers immediately to the Scottish Parliament.”