The UK Government has shot down the SNP’s push to decriminalise all drugs for personal use.
Under the Scottish Government’s proposals, addicts would no longer be criminalised for possessing Class A drugs such as cocaine or heroin unless they intend to supply it to others. Drug consumption rooms would also be introduced where addicts could inject themselves without fear of arrest.
The proposals, which repeat calls made by the Scottish Government’s Drugs Deaths Taskforce in 2021, urge the UK Government to devolve powers on drugs legislation or change the law itself.
Scotland’s Drugs Policy Minister Elena Whitham claimed: “I would say today here, that criminalisation increases the harms people experience. Criminalisation kills.”
But a Home Office spokesperson responded: “Illegal drugs destroy lives and devastate communities. We are committed to preventing drug use by supporting people through treatment and recovery and tackling the supply of illegal drugs, as set out in our 10-year drugs strategy.
“We have no plans to decriminalise drugs given the associated harms, including the risks posed by organised criminals, who will use any opportunity to operate an exploitative and violent business model.”
Illegal drugs destroy lives and devastate communities. Home Office
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman also made clear the Government had “no plans to alter our tough stance on drugs”.
While drugs legislation is handled by Westminster, the Scottish Government has control over its approach to tackling the problem of drugs.
In 2019, the Lord Advocate stated that drug consumption rooms are not permissible under current law, but since 2021, police officers in Scotland have been allowed to issue warnings to those caught with Class A drugs instead of prosecuting them.
National Records of Scotland figures show that there were 1,330 drug-related deaths in 2021 — the second highest annual total on record, and the worst in Europe.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that addicts have overdosed on ‘free heroin’ supplied by NHS Scotland as part of a harm reduction scheme.
Since 2019, Glasgow’s Enhanced Drug Treatment Service – funded by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Trust – has recorded 26 overdoses among its 24 clients.
Annemarie Ward of drugs charity FAVOR UK told the Scottish Daily Mail: “These are grim revelations and they show spending on ‘heroin-assisted treatment’ is many times more expensive than rehab”.
She asked: “To what extent can it be said to be working when there are so many overdoses, and the cost is so high? We’re just endlessly giving people more drugs – rather than helping them to stop.”