The UK Government has been accused of a “wholesale rejection” of recommendations made in a cross-party group report on the current drug deaths crisis in Scotland.
After holding an inquiry, the House of Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee published a report in November last year, which called for a number of changes to current drug policy.
The committee currently includes five Conservatives, two Labour members, two Liberal Democrats and three SNP MPs.
The report concluded that innovative approaches were needed to address the root causes of problem drug use.
It recommended that problem drug use be treated as a public health issue with cross-departmental support; for the decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs for personal use; and the opening of a pilot safer drug consumption facility in Glasgow.
However, in a recently published response from Kit Malthouse, Minister of State for Crime and Policing, the UK government has rejected these alongside many of the report’s other recommendations.
In relation to treating drugs as a public heath issue, the UK Government stated:
“There is a strong link between drugs and crime, which is why we reject the assertion that the Department for Health and Social Care should lead on drug misuse. We know that people who regularly use heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine are estimated to commit around 45% of all acquisitive crime.”
The Scottish government has treated drug-related problems as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue since 2008.
On the idea of consumption rooms, the UK government responded that:
“We want to do all we can to stop people having access to drugs that could ultimately kill them. No illegal drug-taking can be assumed to be safe and there is no safe way to take them.”
They added: “Our approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs.”
Chairman of the Committee, Pete Wishart MP, speaking to the BBC, said the report was based on one of the most “extensive drugs inquiries in Scotland ever conducted”.
In response to the UK Government’s feedback to the report, he said: “We are surprised and disappointed by the government’s almost wholesale rejection of recommendations by a Westminster Select Committee after collecting a substantial body of evidence from people with lived experience, charities and academics, as well as legal, criminal justice and health professionals…few of these will find comfort in this response.”