Midlothian Provost sorry for “druggies” comment

Midlothian Provost Councillor Peter Smaill.
Midlothian Provost Councillor Peter Smaill.

Midlothian Provost Peter Smaill has apologised after referring to drug users as “druggies” during a council debate last week.

Councillor Smaill (Con) made his comment as councillors were asked to support a motion calling for more work to be done to tackle drug issues in the county.

Supporting the motion, Cllr Smaill said he had personal experience of the impact of the problem on not just those caught up in addiction but their communities.

He told a council meeting that consideration had to be given to tenants who lived next door to drug addicts who “have wild parties, trash their houses, scream, break glasses and make living in that particular residence a living hell”. The provost said: “The issue for me came straight to my heart when a very close member of my family rang me up in tears because she had a druggie couple next door.

“It really is an issue we as the landlord for many houses have to consider our roles, our duty of care to those in Midlothian that are not themselves druggies but are caught up in this syndrome.”

His comments were immediately criticised by SNP Councillor Debbi McCall, who told the provost: “I really don’t think using the word ‘druggie’ is helpful in this situation and I really don’t think its appropriate in the chamber.”

Mr Smaill withdrew his comment, adding: “I am happy to withdraw, substance abuse takes many forms and that was a brief lapse and I apologise.”

Councillors were asked to back a motion brought by Conservative councillor Andrew Hardie, and seconded by Councillor Smaill, asking members to recognise the significant drug problem in Midlothian and call for a paper investigating options to enhance current drugs prevention and recovery services. It also called on them to work with partner organisations to include anti-drugs advice in schools.

However, the motion was defeated after Labour councillor Jim Muirhead proposed instead an amendment agreeing a  seminar should be held with relevant parties and MSPs invited to take part to ensure elected members were better informed about current services available before deciding on additional action.

Cllr Muirhead said it was about taking “the right action” and members needed to be more informed about the issue to do that.

He was backed by Councillor John Hackett (Labour), who told the meeting he believed councillors needed to be better informed about the issues and ongoing work before making a decision.

He said: “I appreciate the sentiment of the motion but I am concerned that for such a serious issue we are taking actions on the back of a one-page motion,

“I would rather be more educated and informed before pursuing any course of action.”

Councillors voted in favour of the second motion for a seminar.