“A NATIONAL disgrace” about which “it is a reasonable criticism to say this government should have done more”.

That’s not the Scottish Conservative take on the SNP’s dismal record when it comes to the travesty of drug-related deaths.

It’s Nicola Sturgeon’s verdict on her own performance.

The First Minister used a recent statement in Holyrood to update the country on how she planned to reverse the devastating statistics which show Scotland to be the worst in Europe when it comes to drug deaths.

Her party has been in power since 2007 – it shouldn’t have taken the best part of 14 years to finally get round to this issue.

The problem is dire and getting worse.

As the Reporter reported just a few weeks ago, the number of drug-related deaths in West Dunbartonshire has doubled in the space of just 24 months.

It should be the absolute priority of any government to sort this out, but all we’ve had is half-baked statements and swingeing funding cuts.

As the admirable drug campaigners say: “You keep talking, we keep dying.”

Not only has the SNP government been complacent on this issue; when it has made policy decisions, they have, too often, been the wrong ones.

Year after year they’ve poured millions of pounds into methadone programmes.

Now, for some people that is the right treatment approach.

But for far too many others it has simply kept them in dependency limbo, offering them absolutely no prospect of a full recovery from their addiction.

In recent years, methadone has cropped up on more death certificates than heroin – the very problem it’s supposed to be solving.

And decisions like that have come at the cost of treating those with drug addictions as human beings capable of recovering and having a future.

They should have been offered a life recovery, not just a drug one - more focus on abstinence and more focus on rehabilitation beds.

Fortunately, Ms Sturgeon did commit more money to rehab beds in her statement last week, but for so many it’s just too late.

The SNP’s failings with the justice system are also playing a part.

We agree that for vulnerable users this is a health consideration first and foremost.

But for those dealers and suppliers who flood our communities with drugs, the penalties need to be far more severe.

Make it a crime worth avoiding.

The SNP has been in sole control over the areas which could tackle drug deaths for 14 years.

It’s completely unacceptable that it has taken to now for it to be taken remotely seriously.