A PLEA has been issued for more investment in drug and alcohol services to tackle the number of babies being born addicted in Ayrshire.

Figures released by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show there have been 41 births involving babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the NHS Ayrshire and Arran health board area since April 2017.

There are now calls for the Scottish Government to take “radical action” to improve support services.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said the NAS figures are “utterly heartbreaking.”

“It is hard to think of a worse possible start in life for a newborn baby to have to endure,” he added.

“In 2016, the Scottish Government slashed funding to drug and alcohol partnerships by more than 20 per cent. Valuable facilities shut their doors and expertise was lost, which has proved hard to replace.

“The Scottish Government has belatedly begun to repair that damage but there is so much more to do.

“It is time for radical action, not just to help people struggling with drug misuse today but for future generations too.

“That means investing in local services which are best placed to intervene to stop lives from being lost and new lives starting dependent on substances.

“Drug misuse should always be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice matter. Anything else will condemn many more children to be born into these awful circumstances.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said increased investment in local services and support for women and families are central to a public health approach being taken as part of a national mission to tackle drug misuse.

She added: “This is backed up with an additional £250million to improve access to treatment and recovery services for people affected by problem drug use.

“This includes direct funding of £3million per year to support families, as well as £3.5million for services to provide support through the Whole Family Framework launched in December.

“This Government has also agreed in principle to fund a national specialist residential family service which will be run by the charity and housing association, Phoenix Futures, and based in Saltcoats, to support parents along with their children.”