Scotland has to “do better” on drug deaths and mental health, the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly Moderator has said ahead of meetings with political leaders.
The Right Reverend Dr Martin Fair will meet with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the leaders of the Scottish Tories, Lib Dems and Greens as well as Scottish Parliament presiding officer Ken Macintosh on Tuesday.
Ahead of the meeting, an annual tradition for the Moderator to visit Holyrood, Dr Fair expressed his gratitude to the Scottish Government for its close work with the church during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “The church is glad that the Scottish Government has worked with us closely throughout the pandemic to try and keep people safe.
“I am looking forward to discussing the many brilliant ways in which the church has been involved in community cohesion and support efforts.
“Given my own particular interests, I look forward to discussing how the Parliament’s recent decision to declare a ‘mental health crisis’ can lead to meaningful action.”
A motion tabled by the Scottish Lib Dems last week declaring a mental health crisis in Scotland was passed by MSPs.
Dr Fair added: “I also want to ask the First Minister and party leaders about strategies to tackle Scotland’s appalling drugs deaths and suicide figures.
“Although I am the Moderator of the General Assembly, I’m first and foremost a parish minister and these subjects are ever before me in the lives of real people.
“We’ve got to do better.”
In 2019, Scotland recorded 1,264 deaths from drugs – the highest on record and a 6% increase from the previous year.
The church, Dr Fair said, could act as a facilitator for discussion on the kind of country Scotland wants to be, as he opposed claims the church should be separate from politics.
“The church cares about people who are affected by every single decision made by politicians and political institutions in one way or another. Dr Fair said.
“It is our Christian duty, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, to give voice to the voiceless and stand up for the vulnerable and dispossessed.
“So, of course we’re interested and concerned about politics in the broadest sense, not party politics.”