Scottish Tories step up opposition to plan for drug consumption room

Senior Scottish Conservatives have doubled down on their opposition to the opening of a drug consumption room (DCR) in Glasgow, claiming that such a pilot scheme would be illegal and ignores wider issues surrounding addiction.

Thomas Kerr. Picture: John Devlin

Thomas Kerr, leader of the Tory group on the city council, told Scotland on Sunday that he could not support the policy if it was put back up for a vote given recent comments from the Lord Advocate on its legality.

The SNP administration and local health authorities in Glasgow have been frustrated at the failure to establish a Drug Consumption Room, which they believe would help reduce the growing number of heroin addicts who contract HIV from the shared use of needles.

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The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC,right, told MSPs last week that while he does have the power to instruct police officers not to refer people caught with illegal drugs for criminal proceedings, this alone would not lead to DCRs becoming a reality.

He insisted that a change of the Misuse of Drugs Act would be necessary before he would consider signing off on a future situation.

Regulation of proscribed drugs remains a reserved matter.

Kerr claimed other options to tackle the rising number of deaths from drugs should now be explored.

“I am very clear that Scotland is facing a drugs crisis, with drugs-related deaths continuing to rise year on year, and our city is at the forefront of this epidemic,” he said.

“What we need to do as a city is stop calling for more powers and instead utilise the ones we currently hold to their fullest.”

He continued: “Last year, Glasgow Conservative councillors moved an amendment to a motion by the SNP regarding safe consumption rooms for drug users.

“We said that they should only be considered if the necessary steps had been taken to allow them to operate in a legal manner.

“The Lord Advocate has since issued advice confirming that these facilities are not permissible within the current legal framework, and the Westminster Government has confirmed that they have no plans to change the law in this area.”

He added: “Therefore, if this issue came back to the council I cannot see circumstances where my group would give our support to such a policy.”

Kerr’s intervention echoes comments made by Adam Tomkins, a Conservative MSP in Glasgow.

“It’s beyond the time to change our drugs policy,” he told the BBC last week.

“But I’m not in favour of either decriminalisation or making it easier for people to shoot up in the streets of my city.

“I’ve visited a huge number of rehabilitation centres in Glasgow. One of the things that I heard that most resonated with me when I visited the job crisis centre in Glasgow from addicts who are still using who told me: ‘For god sake, the one thing you do not want to do is to make it easier for us to take heroin’.”