Home Office says ‘no plans’ to decriminalise drugs as Scots committee urges reform
The Home Office has insisted it has “no plans” to decriminalise the possession of drugs – despite a second Westminster committee now calling for this.
The Scottish Affairs Committee has now joined the Health and Social Care Committee in calling for a new approach to be adopted to try to tackle the drugs problems.
Sarah Wollaston (pictured), chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said drug use was now a “public health emergency”.
She added: “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, that responsibility for drugs policy should be transferred from the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Care.
“The Committee also echoes our conclusion that an evidence-based, harm reduction approach should be taken to drug policy. That should include the decriminalisation of the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use.”
A Home Office spokesman stressed “every drug related death is a tragedy” as he said ministers were “concerned about the rate of drug deaths in Scotland”.
The country recorded a total of 1,187 drugs deaths in 2018, and the spokesman said: “We are absolutely committed to reducing the use of drugs and the harms they cause.”
But he stated: “The Government has no plans to decriminalise drug possession.
“It 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.”
Meanwhile the Scottish Government welcomed the report’s support for the introduction of a safe drugs consumption room in Glasgow, as part of efforts to reduce deaths there.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The outdated Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be amended to allow us to implement a range of public health focused responses, including the introduction of safe consumption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.”
However the Home Office spokesman was clear that “there is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms”, adding 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”.
Despite the lack of support from the UK Government for a supervised drugs consumption facility, the ministers in Scotland will continue to take action to tackle the drugs crisis.
A dedicated drugs death taskforce has been established “to shape steps to reduce the harms caused by drugs, and advise on further changes in practice, or in the law, which could help save lives,” the spokeswoman said.
She added: “We have invested almost £800 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008. Our 2018 alcohol and drug strategy set out how an additional £20 million per annum announced the year before is being used to improve local prevention, treatment, and recovery services in areas all across Scotland.
“In addition we announced through our 2019-20 Programme for Government a further investment of £20 million over two years to support local services and provide targeted support.”
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