We’re taking urgent action to tackle Scotland’s drug emergency

Despite many positive developments coming as a result the Scottish Government’s Alcohol and Drug Strategy, we recognise that Scotland is facing an emergency over the increase of drug-related deaths.

Innovative and evidence-based action is required, from both the Scottish and UK Governments, to help tackle this emergency and in Scotland we are committed to doing that.

We need a public health approach to drug policy

The Scottish Government’s Alcohol and Drug Strategy recognises that to truly tackle the scourge of drug use facing communities it will require treating people and all their complex needs, not just addiction but also tackling the inequalities and traumas behind substance misuse, and intervening early in order to prevent people at risk.

The Scottish Government have called on the UK government to devolve powers over drug laws so that new emergency measures can be implemented.

One such proposition expected to save lives, a supervised drug consumption facility in Glasgow, was blocked by the UK government despite receiving support from the Scottish Parliament.

We need a Supervised Drug Consumption Facility

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has campaigned vigorously for the opening of a Supervised Drug Consumption Facility (SDCF) in her constituency – where there is a significant drug-injecting population – but the Home Office has so far refused to grant the necessary legal exemptions to allow any facility to operate.

The recent evidence and statistics illustrate that the UK Government’s current position, blocking approval of a SDCF, is absurd. Especially when there is cross-party support for plans at Westminster, Holyrood, and Glasgow City Council, where plans were passed unanimously.

The power should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament

UK Government must now either act and enable the Scottish Government to implement a range of public health-focused responses – including the introduction of supervised drug consumption facilities – or devolve the power to the Scottish Parliament.

If Westminster won’t act then it cannot continue to prevent Scotland from doing what is necessary to tackle the drugs emergency.

The Scottish Government has also established a new task force ,driven by evidence and the voices of those with experience of using drugs, which will advise government ministers on what more can be done to help help save lives and reduce harm.

What happens next?

The SNP Scottish Government provided over £70 million in the last financial year to help reduce the harms caused by alcohol and drugs. We are prepared to take forward more innovative, evidence-based approaches, even if at first they may be challenging.

Policy on the use of controlled drugs is currently reserved to the UK Government under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. We believe there is a compelling case that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be amended, and that responsibility in this area should be devolved so that future decisions can be taken by the Scottish Parliament.

Drug deaths aren’t unique to the UK, but elsewhere they’ve prompted an evidence-based response to try and save lives. In Canada, for example, similar problems have led to governments declaring a public health emergency which paved the way for sanctioned Drug Consumption Rooms.

The UK Government must recognise what Scotland faces in drug deaths is also an emergency.