Government committees call for radical drug reform

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Joanne Krus
Deputy News Editor

Two Westminster committees, the Scottish Affairs Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee, have come together to call for the government to adopt a new approach for dealing with drug problems.

Scotland has the highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe and the figures continue to rise every year. Last year 1,187 people died because of drugs, according to official statistics.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said the level of drug use in the UK had reached a “public health emergency”.

Wollaston said: “A radical approach to drug policy is needed to tackle that emergency, and I am delighted to see that the Scottish Affairs Committee has reached the same conclusion as we did.”

The committee also called for a public health approach, meaning that the issue of drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal one. They also accused the UK government of ignoring “evidence-based” approaches.

However, the Home Office insists that it has “no plans” to decriminalise drugs.

A Home Office spokesperson said that decriminalising “would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families and communities.”

However, Scottish Government has welcomed the committees’ recommendations. A spokesperson said: “The outdated Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be amended to allow us to implement a range of public health focused responses, including the introduction of safe consumption facilities in Glasgow.

“We call on the incoming UK government to amend the Act or to devolve those powers to Scotland.”

These facilities would provide a safe environment for people to bring and consume drugs, with sterile equipment and medically qualified staff.

The Home Office has been clear that there is no legal framework for these facilities and that a “range of crimes would be committed in the course of running such a facility, by service users and staff, such as possession of a controlled drug.”