Vital toxicology lab set to close amidst battle to halt soaring drugs deaths crisis
The fight against Scotland's drugs death epidemic is at "significant risk" after it was revealed the countries only forensic testing lab will lose a £1 million contract, Unite the Union have warned.
Glasgow University’s forensic toxicology service has lost its contract to provide reports to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service over a row about funding.
Campaigners estimate the lab covers some 90 per cent of drugs related deaths in Scotland, which soared to 1,187 last year – an increase of 27 per cent on the previous year.
Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for health and sport, Monica Lennon, is working with Unite the Union to highlight the risk of losing the service amidst the surge in drug related deaths.
Unite say the loss of the lab could see testing farmed out to facilities in England, where reports can take upto six months threatening the ability to spot deadly drug trends.
Monica Lennon said Scottish Labour was supporting Unite's campaign.
"Scottish Labour is standing fully behind the workers at Scotland’s only Toxicology Unit and we wholeheartedly support Unite’s campaign.
"That’s why I have tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament and I invite MSPs from every party to sign it. The Scottish Government must intervene to protect jobs and the continuity of this crucial service. For this to be happening when Scotland is experiencing a drugs death emergency is absurd.”
Unite were strongly critical of the lack of consultation behind the decision.
“Unite represents the technicians whose jobs have been put at risk by the failure to secure an extension to the Crown Office contract at the University of Glasgow’s toxicology service.
"It is the only department in Scotland with the necessary capacity, knowledge and expertise to provide reports within weeks on drugs related deaths.
"It’s an outrage that the workers were given little warning over the potential job losses, and Unite is doing everything we can to ensure this position is reversed. At a time when Scotland has the highest drugs related deaths in Europe to lose this service would be untenable for both the public health and safety.”
It is understood attempts have been made to find other Scottish facilities who could do the work, however none have the required expertise or knowledge.