SNP MP lodges Westminster Bill to legalise drug consumption rooms

A bid to change the law to allow drug consumption rooms to open across the UK and to make drug addiction a public health emergency rather than a criminal justice matter is being made at Westminster by an SNP MP.

Tommy Sheppard published his Private Members’ Bill on Monday to enact the recommendations of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee 2019 inquiry into problem drug use.

The Bill details a series of reforms, including decriminalising the possession of small amounts of restricted drugs for personal use and ensuring that overdose prevention facilities – also known as drug consumption rooms – can operate legally.

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SNP MP Tommy Sheppard.SNP MP Tommy Sheppard.
SNP MP Tommy Sheppard.
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It is understood to have the backing of MPs across the political spectrum as well as many drugs campaign groups.

The publication comes just days after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he did not believe consumption rooms were a long-term solution to the drugs problem – despite support for such a move by Scottish Labour MSPs.

Mr Sheppard said: “Doing nothing and hoping the problem will go away is not the answer. Yet that is what the UK Government continues to do.

"I’m trying to make this is as easy as possible for them. The Bill contains straight forward legislative changes, which the Secretary of State could enact quickly and easily.

"People are dying while the UK Government continues to criminalise and stigmatise some of the most vulnerable in our society. It must stop and it must stop now.

“This Bill has supporters across the House of Commons, including in the Conservative Party, and I hope the government will take these proposals seriously.”

Scotland’s drug death toll hit record numbers last year, rising for the sixth year in a row. The figures for 2018 led to the crisis being called a public health emergency and the 2019 statistics showed a 6 per cent rise on that figure to 1,264.

As a result of the figures, Scottish Government public health minister Joe FitzPatrick was sacked by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and replaced by a new drugs minister Angela Constance.

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Dr James Nicholls, chief executive of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation said: "The Misuse of Drugs Act is now 50 years old. It is absurd that our drug laws remain shackled by legislation passed when smoking was allowed in classrooms, the Black and White Minstrel Show was a television staple, and women could still be fired for being pregnant.

"This Bill is an opportunity for us to finally see a step change in the political debate."

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, also gave her support to the Bill. She said: “The UK has been experiencing record drug related deaths for the last eight years, yet this is a public health crisis largely ignored by the government at Westminster.

"Legislation which makes room for safer consumption sites, and decriminalises people who use drugs, can improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society.”

And Dave Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “This Bill contributes to the step change in the way drug use is viewed that will be necessary before we can fully address the issues that arise from the use of substances.”

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