Legal status should not delay opening of safe drug consumption rooms in Scotland say campaigners

Scotland should open drug consumption rooms without waiting for a change in the law, campaigners have said.

The Scottish Government has long been in favour of the facilities, which would provide a safe area with medical supervision for people struggling with addiction to take drugs.

But the UK Government has stood against the idea, refusing to grant a waiver to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that would allow for the users and staff to be protected from prosecution.

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The first facility was planned by Glasgow City Council but other local authorities have expressed an interest.

Peter Krykant during a ceremony to mark International Overdose Awareness Day outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Campaigner Peter Krykant, frustrated with the legal wrangle over the facilities, created his own in the form of a converted minivan that would go to different areas of the city. Drugs workers believe his actions saved many lives, particularly those of hardened, long-term intravenous drug users who are particularly susceptible to accidental overdose. His van also became the focus for addicts who saw it as a safe haven from the often chaotic life on the streets of Scotland’s largest city and particularly during inclement weather as experienced over the winter and early spring of 2020/21 amid the pandemic lockdown which saw other services drastically reduced.

Both Mr Krykant and Scottish Drugs Forum chief executive David Liddell OBE said the fact no prosecutions have resulted from the van shows the Scottish Government could give the go-ahead for the facilities.

“When I ran the safe consumption facility in Glasgow, there was no police intervention apart from a meaningless allegation of obstruction in the course of a search, so we could go ahead and open these facilities with a simple divert scheme into those facilities,” Mr Krykant told Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday.

Peter Krykant poses with his first drug consumption van

“I already know Police Scotland officers were seeing people injecting in alleyways and diverting them to my ambulance to come and inject in a safe, supervised environment to reduce the risk of HIV.”

Mr Liddell said: “As Peter has alluded to in terms of the drug consumption room he ran, there was no public interest in prosecuting Peter and no prosecution followed.

“It’s a ridiculous state of affairs that he could run a service like that and not be prosecuted but Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board that want to run a service like that can’t.

“We should proceed with drug consumption rooms in Scotland under the current legislation.

“If that requires a letter of comfort from the Lord Advocate – that is what we’ve previously advocated and pushed for.”

The Scottish Government has said as recently as this month that work continues to find a way to open the facilities.

In a meeting with UK policing minister Kit Malthouse, drugs minister Angela Constance said “we will leave no stone unturned in working to overcome existing legal barriers to implement safe consumption rooms in Scotland”.

The calls for the facilities began in the middle of the last decade following a major HIV outbreak in Glasgow, but these have now morphed into a response to the drugs death crisis, which figures show killed 1,339 people in 2020.

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