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Thu, 13 August 2020

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MPs urge ministers to open drug consumption rooms in Scotland following record deaths

MPs urge ministers to open drug consumption rooms in Scotland following record deaths
2 min read

UK ministers have been urged to reconsider their opposition to drug consumption rooms in Scotland after the number deaths from substance abuse in the country reached an all-time high.

The Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee said policy needed to be “substantially reformed” north of the Border following 1,187 drug-related deaths in 2018.

MPs said consumption rooms, where users take drugs in a safe and sterile environment while being supervised by medical staff, had been “proven” to reduce overdoses, deaths and to lower rates of infection.

The cross-party group said their “extensive” inquiry took evidence from agencies, health services, academics and governments and that they had visited Portugal, Germany and Canada to study their drug policies.

The group also expressed “deep regret” at the Home Office for blocking a proposed pilot facility in Glasgow, adding that the case for it was “the most compelling in Europe”.

They added that if ministers refused to change tack, then power to introduce the rooms should be handed to Scottish Government ministers, who back the proposals.

However, the MPs said the SNP administration at Holyrood “could be doing more” on drug-related health treatment and criticised their decision to cut funding for bodies who provide treatment services.

The group also echoed calls from the Health and Social Care Committee for decriminalisation of the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

They said treating the issue as a criminal justice matter, rather than a health matter, was “overwhelmingly” found to be “counter-productive”.

SNP MP and chair of the committee, Pete Wishart, said: "Safe drug consumption facilities are proven to reduce the number of drug-related deaths, and can act as a gateway to further treatment which can address the root causes of substance use.

"Every drug death is preventable, and these centres could play a vital role in addressing Scotland’s drug crisis.

"The Home Office’s decision to block the introduction of a safe drug consumption facility in Glasgow, despite the record number of drug deaths in Scotland, is deeply regrettable, and we hope that they will reconsider."

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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