Drug deaths Scotland: UK Government will 'not intervene' if Scottish Government pilots drug consumption rooms, Alister Jack says
The Scottish Secretary told MPs the concept was "not the easy solution" MPs think. But he confirmed there would be no fresh constitutional row with the Scottish Government in saying Westminster would not block plans for a pilot in Glasgow.
The declaration came after SNP MPs challenged him at Scottish Questions in Parliament, asking what conversations Mr Jack had with the Scottish administration over the policy.
Responding to SNP MP Marion Fellows, Mr Jack said: "Drug consumption rooms are not the easy solution some honourable members may think, there is no safe way to take illegal drugs. They devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities.
"However, and I say this to the honourable lady, if the Scottish Government and the Lord Advocate decide to go ahead with a pilot for drug consumption rooms, the UK Government will not intervene".
It comes after Scotland's chief law officer said it would not be in the public interest to prosecute users of such facilities for simple possession offences.
The decision by Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC could now pave the way to set up a drug consumption room in Glasgow starting within weeks.
Speaking in the chamber, SNP MP Joanna Cherry called for the UK Government to act now and “save lives”.
She said: “The Lord Advocate has announced she’s not going to prosecute drug users for simple possession offences committed within a pilot of a safer drugs consumption policy, and both the home affairs committee of this House and the Scottish affairs committee have recommended that the UK Government support such a pilot in Glasgow by creating a legislative pathway under the Misuse of Drugs Act enabling such a facility to operate, or by devolving power to the Scottish Government.
"Both cross-party committees are very clear that the evidence shows these measures are life-saving. So when will he act to save lives in Scotland by persuading his Government to drop their intransigence on this issue?”.
Responding before confirming the UK Government would not intervene, Mr Jack questioned changing the laws in Scotland.
He said: “It was disappointing the Scottish Government was not prepared to work with the UK Government on Project ADDER, an offer which was made with supporting funding, and the E in ADDER is for enforcement.“I believe police should be enforcing the laws in Scotland, not decriminalising drugs, because that drives people to health solutions”.
Earlier Scottish Conservatives MSP Miles Briggs claimed he welcomed the Lord Advocate's intervention on recovery rooms and said he did not expect the UK Government to object.
Giving a statement to the Holyrood chamber on Tuesday, drugs minister Elena Whitham said details of the consumption room pilot would be revealed at a coming meeting of the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board (GCIJB) on September 27.
The proposals are expected to be approved by the IJB – a partnership of the city council and local health officials – given the Scottish Government’s support for the implementation of consumption rooms and the pro stance of Glasgow’s third sector drug and alcohol organisations.
There were 600 suspected drug deaths over the period January to June, with the total 7 per cent higher than the same period last year.
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