An MSP has expressed his disappointment at what he claims is Holyrood inaction over a dangerous drug.
The Evening Express published a special investigation in March into the dangers posed by alprazolam – brand name Xanax – a powerful tranquilliser which contributed to the deaths of 29 people in the NHS Grampian area last year.
The drug is not available on the NHS, but can be prescribed privately, and sources revealed how drug dealers make it available in the city within a few minutes for just £1 a tablet.
North-east Scotland MSP Tom Mason, who has campaigned on the issue, was so shocked by the Evening Express’s findings he wrote to Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison to ask what the Scottish Government was going to do.
In his letter, Mr Mason said: “The Evening Express has conducted an investigation and found evidence of yet more deaths since the turn of the year.
“It goes without saying these developments are gravely concerning to my constituents.”
The Conservative MSP asked seven questions of Ms Robison, including: “Does the Scottish Government believe that a change in such a strategy is required to approach this problem, given the increasing number of fatalities involved?”
Writing back, Ms Robison said: “This government remains fully committed to tackling the damaging impact of all drug use, including the harms caused by misuse of prescription-only medicines such as Xanax.
“We work closely with alcohol and drug partnerships, health boards and a range of other partners to monitor all current drug trends”.
Mr Mason today said: “It is very disappointing the Health Secretary has taken more than a month to respond but has nothing new to say on this issue.
“People are dying and there is an urgent need for action.
“Unfortunately, it would appear that Shona Robison is not taking this seriously enough.”
On behalf of Ms Robison, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are fully committed to tackling the damaging impact of drugs in Scotland and our forthcoming drug and alcohol treatment strategy aims to ensure the best health outcomes for people who misuse these substances, including prescription-only medicines.”