THE man bidding for a fourth term as a local MSP has admitted the government has failed on drugs and that it is time for change.

With deaths at an all time high, the SNP's Stuart McMillan says a new move towards recovery and bringing in the third sector is finally a step in the right direction.

Inverclyde has one of the highest drug death rates in the country, behind only Glasgow and Dundee.

A total of 33 people lost their lives to drugs last year and Mr McMillan has met with the government's new drugs minister Angela Constance to call for Inverclyde to get a bigger share of the funding pot to tackle the scourge.

Mr McMillan, who sits on the board of drug recovery group Moving On Inverclyde, said: "The strategy introduced in 2011 just hasn't worked for whatever reason and we need new policies.

"The rise in drugs deaths is unacceptable and we know with Covid and the challenges it is expected to rise yet again.

"We need to look at recovery and that is where the third sector comes in.

"I am aware of the great work of Jericho House and The Haven and I am also on the board of Moving On and see it for myself.

"I think the public sector can learn from the third sector.

"I met with Angela Constance and I spoke about the need for additional resources for Inverclyde and she recognised this as well.

"What is important about the changes is there will now be funds for the third sector organisations directly from the government.

"They have [previously] had to rely greatly on funding cycles."

Official drug death statistics released in December presented an alarming picture for the district.

A total of 26 men and seven women died, with Inverclyde's annual average drug deaths per 1,000 of the population over the last five years the third highest in the country.

But the area had the worst rate among the 35-44 age cohort, at almost twice the national average.

Seven deaths were recorded 10 years ago.

By 2018 this had soared to 26.

In all but three of the reported cases in 2019, the deaths were classed as accidental overdoses.

The majority of deaths included a mix of heroin, methadone and the deadly 'street' sedative benzodiazepine.

Inverclyde health and social care partnership has brought alcohol and drugs services together, following the examples of other local authorities.

Bosses also recently announced funding for a new recovery programme with Moving On and community care forum Your Voice.