THIS week I’d hoped to be able to write this column on festive celebrations as families prepare to celebrate Christmas this year in a very different manner than usual. But unfortunately, for 1264 families this year there will be no joyous celebrations.

Because alongside the pandemic of Coronavirus, the epidemic of drug abuse in Scotland has continued to claim record numbers of lives and devastate those who have lost loved ones to this disease.

Last week it was revealed that Scotland’s drug-related death toll is now 3.5 times higher than the rest of the UK and higher than those reported for every single EU country.

There will be no daily press briefings fronted by the First Minister for these individual tragedies and their bereaved families.

Instead, these stories have been co-opted as part of what is now the default schism in Scottish politics. I’ve had a torrent of abuse from cybernats this week promoting debunked conspiracy theories about how Scottish drug statistics are not comparable with these other countries, and about how we are so miserably failing as a nation because we don’t provide consumption rooms for substance abuse even though most of the countries – including the rest of the UK – that have far lower rates of drug deaths also do not pursue that policy.

It’s not surprising that the nationalists are most comfortable framing this issue through the lens of their never-ending battle of constitutional attrition with Westminster. It might be what they’re comfortable with but honestly what is the point of devolution if, in the failure of devolved decision making, the politicians responsible reflexively blame someone else instead of taking responsibility themselves.

And to be fair to the First Minister, for the first time last week she did seem to be admitting her direct culpability. During both FMQs and subsequently on social media she stated that it was on the Scottish Government to show that they are on top of the drugs crisis. While any admission, rare that they are, from Nicola Sturgeon that her government should be held accountable for anything – as the Daily Record’s headline spelled out last week, ‘Talk is cheap’.

We’ve heard warm words before and no more task forces or committees or action groups or conferences are going to change the hard reality of what has been allowed to develop under the last 13 years of SNP rule in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives have been clear we’ve listened to others and along with charities are calling for a £20 million recovery fund to make up for the cuts presided over by Nicola Sturgeon and her government.

Cuts that have devastated the capacity of Scotland’s world class rehabilitation services to address this crisis head on.

My mum didn’t need a drugs consumption room to help her ‘manage’ her addiction, she needed the targeted intervention of skilled professionals to help her overcome that addiction and stay clean. She is one of the lucky ones.

In 2006, Nicola Sturgeon attacked the then Scottish Government for cutting rehabilitation funding, but the truth is that under her watch the number of rehab beds has been decimated with only 13% provided by the Scottish Government.

So I’m pleased that Nicola Sturgeon says she’s finally taking notice of what families like mine have been screaming about for years. I’m pleased that in her exchanges with Ruth Davidson at First Minister’s Questions she seemed to finally admit to the failures of her government in the provision of rehabilitation services. And I’m pleased that she didn’t revert to form and blame this record on Westminster, or the Tories, or reserved powers, or any of the other nationalist bogeymen that are trotted out to deflect scrutiny on this issue. But honestly, the proof will be in action not words – and as the addiction charity FAVORUK rightly says, ‘You Keep Talking, We Keep Dying.’