Scotland still has the worst suicide rate in Britain – despite long-term improvements from a record high.

Official figures yesterday revealed 13.9 deaths for every 100,000 people in Scotland last year, compared with 9.2 in England.

The high level of suicide was published a month after the Scottish Government set a new target for reducing the rate by 20 per cent by 2022.

The SNP had been under pressure to tackle the country’s suicide rates after a previous strategy lapsed.

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton has issued a warning

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The high rate of suicides in Scotland, especially among young men, is devastating. The SNP dawdled for 586 days before introducing a suicide prevention strategy after the last one expired. That means for 2017 there was no strategy. That is unforgivable.

“The Government must make improving mental health services and access to them a top priority.”

In Scotland, the rate has fallen from 17.5 deaths for every 100,000 people when records began in 1981. The rates in Wales fluctuated from year to year but experts said there has been no apparent downward trend over time. Northern Ireland, where figures have been the worst in the UK, was not included in the latest Office for National Statistics report.

The figures differ from earlier Scottish official figures, which suggested a rate of 12.5 for 2017, because of a different approach to ages and definitions.The Samaritans charity warned in May that the Scottish Government had not treated suicide as top priority.

Last month, Glasgow North Labour MP Paul Sweeney warned suicide is a “ticking time bomb” in the forces as the Daily Record revealed Ryan Smith had become the sixth soldier to take his own life in just over a week.