GLASGOW has always carved a distinct path. In recent years we’ve redefined ourselves as an innovative and international city.

We’ve been unafraid to be bold when others have perhaps doubted our capacity to deliver.

We remain, however, a city of stark contrasts. With poverty and inequality continuing to blight many communities, addiction and the associated ill health and premature mortality remain among our biggest social challenges.

Glasgow now records some of Europe’s highest numbers of drugs deaths and the most in the UK. A cohort of ageing, long-term intravenous heroin users and the emergence of new, cheap “poly” drugs is fuelling an unprecedented spike in drug-related deaths. This is a critical situation for our entire city. We are in the throes of a crisis and an emergency response is required.

With the focus on our city over the next 48 hours, we have an opportunity to properly address that.

We are hosting representatives from both the UK and Scottish governments, leading practitioners in addiction, recovery, harm reduction and mental health, people with the lived experience of addiction, and experts in poverty, housing and criminal justice.

Glasgow is again prepared to be bold, to innovate in our collective response to the serious challenges of addiction and drug misuse and to help build healthier, more stable lives.

We can lead the way for the rest of the UK while ensuring this crisis is first addressed where it is most acute, here in Glasgow.

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There is, of course, no panacea here. The underlying causes are complex and varied. Such is the scale and persistence of the problem that no single intervention will have a transformative impact by itself. So many of those affected have a lifetime’s experience of severe and multiple disadvantage; homelessness, incarceration, mental health issues, childhood abuse and chronic poverty.

And they experience multiple barriers to improving their health and to accessing vital services, not least the severity of their addiction and the chaos of their daily lives.

The longer-term solutions lie largely with improving the response across sectors to the broader needs of those with addiction issues. But that doesn’t make for great headlines.

Nor does the exemplary and pioneering work already undertaken in Glasgow. Our Housing First strategy has the potential to remove so much chaos and instability.

Our peer network for people in recovery fulfils a real demand for person-centred care. There is a unity of purpose across government, health, police and third sector. And we lead the way on treatments for people affected by addiction with our enhanced drug treatment service.

But this an emergency. Previous efforts to address the issues around injecting drug use have floundered. New approaches are necessary to target those most at risk.

Glasgow again has to be bold and innovative and the single most effective intervention is the creation of a Safer Drugs Consumption Facility.

International evidence tells us this is the most impactful intervention to reduce harm and improve health. There are around 500 people regularly injecting in lanes, car parks, closes and public toilets around our city centre.

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They are at risk of blood-borne viruses, of overdose and drug-related death, of injecting-related complications such as abscesses, wounds and deep vein thrombosis. There is also a clear link between public injecting and the recent HIV outbreak.

A Safer Drugs Consumption Facility addresses much of this and provides a single space for partner agencies to engage people with health and social care, including addictions treatment and homelessness. It would allow for direct and regular contact with a cohort significantly at risk from the explosion in poly drugs such as “street Valium”.

There are also significant benefits for the wider community. Businesses and residents continually voice very real concerns about discarded injecting equipment and the anti-social behaviour which routinely accompanies drug misuse.

I sincerely hope our support for a facility receives the prominence and positive response it requires at tomorrow’s UK summit.

The journey to both summits has not been without difficulty. But needless over-politicisation of this agenda benefits no-one. We cannot point-score while people die. Glasgow is ready and willing to work constructively with both governments to find solutions which save lives and build better futures.

But we will not stay quiet if we believe solutions are not properly resourced or the door is closed in our faces to head off potentially adverse publicity. Nothing can be off the table.

To conclude, these summits have been dismissed in some quarters as talking shops. They cannot and must not be. Those of us here today – together – can provide the determination, the leadership, the capacity, the innovation, the determination and the momentum Glasgow needs to get to grips with its drug crisis.

How we respond to Glasgow’s most vulnerable people is both a measure of who we are and critical to the social and economic development of our city.