SNP MP urges UK government to allow legal drug-taking rooms

An MP has urged ministers to allow legal drug consumption rooms as they have 'real potential to reduce drug-related deaths and continuing harm'.

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss. Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss. Picture: John Devlin

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, wants to introduce the UK’s first supervised facility for taking illicit drugs with medical support available.

The Scottish Government are said to be in support of the move with Scottish ministers requesting permission from the Home Office to allow for the proposal to go ahead, which had not been granted.

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Ms Thewliss argues there is a “significant cost in not doing this”, as she listed money spent on ambulance call outs, police time and emergency hospital admissions.

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The Supervised Drug Consumption Faclilities Bill would have provision about supervised drug use facilities to make it lawful to take controlled substances within facilities in specified circumstances.

She said: “I’ve listened to the heartbroken families who have lost loved ones, if it was their choice they would not have their loved one die alone in a filthy back lane, they would want a medically supervised facility where treatment could be given and help could be sought.

“The status quo serves none of these people well. I cannot accept that this is the best that we can do, it’s unacceptable, we must try something different. I accept that it may not work but we must at least try.”

One of the MP’s constituents said she mentioned Glasgow already had drug consumption facilities, behind bushes, in bin shelters and lonely back lanes.

She said: “They are in public toilets and in stolen spaces where intravenous drug users can grasp the tiniest modicum of dignity and privacy for as long as it takes to prepare and inject their fix. Often they are alone and far too regularly drug users will die as a result. As a society we can and we must do much better than that.”

Ms Thewliss added that there was a “real and persistent” issue in Glasgow, with an ageing population of people with long term problem drug use.

She continued: “There needs to be a recognition by this House that abstinence based programmes will not necessarily work for everyone and that harm reduction and support will be better and more worthwhile interventions for a group of people who have not managed to eliminate drug use in the preceding decades.”

Ms Thewliss also pointed out that Scotland’s drug death figures were the worst in Europe, with the 867 recorded in 2016 showing a rise of almost 25 per cent on the previous year.

The Home Office opposes the plan and say they have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms in the UK.

A spokesman said: “There is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms in the UK and we have no plans to introduce them.”