MSPs back safe room for addicts in Glasgow to take drugs

MSPs have backed a call to change the law.
MSPs have backed a call to change the law.
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MSPs last night voted to call on the UK government to allow a safe room to be created where addicts can take drugs.

Arguing for the safer drug use facility to be set up in Glasgow, public health minister Aileen Campbell said it would save lives.

Ms Campbell said the Scottish Government could not give the go ahead for a Safe Drugs Consumption Facility (SCDF) in the city because drugs policy is reserved to Westminster.

There were 867 drugs deaths in Scotland in 2016 – up 23 per cent from the previous year – including 160 in Glasgow.

Ms Cambell argued “bold ideas could be what makes the difference”. She is due to raise the issue in a meeting with Home Office minister Victoria Atkins next month,

Ms Campbell was speaking in a Holyrood debate which eventually saw a majority of MSPs back a Scottish Government motion calling for Westminster to “make the necessary changes to allow the introduction of a facility in Glasgow”.

MSPs voted by 79 to 27 with one abstention to back a Scottish Government motion asking the UK government to introduce the change.

READ MORE: What is the value of the illegal drugs market in Scotland?

A Tory amendment which “recognises concerns regarding this approach” was rejected by 80 votes to 27. A Labour amendment “believing that this is too important an issue for it to become a constitutional conflict between the Scottish and UK governments” was also rejected by 54 votes to 47 with six abstentions.

A Lib Dem amendment calling for the introduction of a regulated market for cannabis was voted down by 98 to 9.

Ms Campbell said: “Unfortunately at this time we are as a nation curtailed as to what we can do in response to the problems we face from substance use. However, the existing situation in Glasgow is serious enough to warrant considering alternative approaches, including a supervised consumption room, and pushing for a change in the legislation to let this happen.

“There are SCDFs in over 70 cities around the world, but not a single one in the UK. And I would argue this position is no longer tenable.”

Glasgow City Council has already backed the creation of such a centre in a bid to help combat the current rise in HIV infections in the area. The idea also has the support of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens.

But Glasgow Tory MSP Annie Wells said she didn’t support a drug taking safe room, despite losing friends to illegal substances. She argued it would “mask why we have reached this crisis point”.