SINCE I first got involved in politics there has been one simple question that I have always been asked: “You grew up in Cranhill and you’re a Tory? How did that happen?”

My response is always very clear – because it’s the only party that offered a working-class kid like me an opportunity to make something of myself. Aspiration, determination, hope and a fair chance at life. That has been my experience of the Scottish Conservative Party and that is what I want to offer to every child in Scotland growing up the way I did.

And it is in this spirit that I write this week’s column, because there is one issue in particular that I am passionate about and that has shaped my life experience like no other – and that is tackling Scotland’s drug death crisis. While official drug death statistics for 2019 have been delayed, there is unfortunately no suggestion that the rapid and tragic rise of recent years has abated.

The Drug Deaths Task Force set up by the Scottish Government last year reported back this month with a lot of talk and little action – only a £4 million commitment which barely plugs the budget gap from cuts to Alcohol and Drug Partnerships made in recent years.

While the report largely focuses on the stigma of accessing support, it fails to address the fact that even when this stigma is overcome, there is very little help available for those looking to beat their addictions. Annemarie Ward, of Faces and Voices of Recovery UK (Favor UK), has described the situation in Scotland as this: “We have practically zero rehab to help get people off drugs – that is insane. We are continuing to concentrate on managing people’s addictions and keep them on drugs rather than trying to help them get well.”

The reason this issue means so much to me is because of how I was brought up. Both my parents struggled with addiction issues and in 2016 I felt the pain that so many families all over Scotland have felt when I lost my dad. Every year when the drug death statistics are released I feel the same sense of anguish knowing that somewhere else in this country a little boy is having to go through the same pain that I did. We have become numb to the pain of this loss and it’s heartbreaking that politicians of all stripes would prefer to play a blame game than engage in good faith on how we can move forwards.

For my part, as someone who has first-hand experience of those fighting addiction, I honestly believe in the power of rehabilitation. While my father is no longer with us, my mother makes me so proud every day as she continues her battle with addiction and work on her recovery. It wasn’t a consumption room that saved my mum – a place where she could have “managed” her addiction. It was the support offered by rehabilitation where she was able to work at defeating that addiction.

The Scottish Conservative Party has a clear policy on drug deaths – we’re open to listening to all methods but we recognise the urgent need to fund rehab beds now. Our drugs strategy launched last year by MSPs Miles Briggs and Annie Wells is a brilliant piece of work which spoke not only to academic experts but to former addicts about what works for them. That’s why we back a life plan for addicts, not just to tackle the addiction but to plan out what the road to recovery looks like for each individual.

Some people will read this article and immediately dismiss me because I am a Tory or a young guy from the East End. But I don’t speak as a politician on this issue, I speak as a son of addiction. The time for talking is over, we now need action. Until we put politics aside I’m afraid Favor’s slogan is all too real... #YouKeepTalkingWeKeepDying.