Legalising drugs could address Scotland's growing problem

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The possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use should be decriminalised across the UK, according to MPs.


The Scottish affairs committee said the move could help address the root causes of problem drug use.

Scotland has the highest drug death rate in the EU, with the number soaring to 1,187 last year. Picture: AP

Scotland has the highest drug death rate in the EU, with the number soaring to 1,187 last year. Picture: AP

The committee’s report makes a series of recommendations following an inquiry into drug use in Scotland.

The MPs said the UK Government treats drugs as a criminal justice matter, but they heard “overwhelmingly” that legal sanctions are “counter-productive”.

They said a public health approach should instead inform Government policy and that decriminalisation would help challenge key issues such as stigma when it comes to people seeking treatment.

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Scotland has the highest drug death rate in the EU, with the number soaring to 1,187 last year – higher than the United States and every other country in Europe, and three times the UK average.

The Department of Health and Social Care should also take over lead responsibility for drugs policy from the Home Office, the report said.

The recommendations come less than two weeks after Westminster’s health and social care committee said some drug offences should be decriminalised.

Focusing on the issue in Scotland, the new report said legislation should be brought forward to allow safe drug consumption facilities – or fix rooms – to be set up.

A proposal to establish such a site – where users can take drugs in a safe environment with medical supervision – in Glasgow has been backed by both the city council and the Scottish Government.

But the move has been blocked by the Home Office – an action the MPs expressed “deep regret” over.

While noting such facilities would not be a “silver bullet” to tackling the issue, the committee urged the UK Government to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow for a pilot facility or failing that to devolve drugs legislation to the Scottish Parliament so it can “implement the health approach it deems to be in Scotland’s best interest”.

Pete Wishart, chairman of the committee, said: “If this number of people were being killed by any other illness, the Government would declare it as a public health issue and act accordingly.”

However, the Home Office has said it has made “no plans” to decriminalise the possession of drugs.

A Home Office spokesman stressed that ministers were “concerned about the rate of drug deaths in Scotland”.