MSPs vote in favour of creating safe drug injection rooms

Written by Jenni Davidson on 20 April 2018 in News

Glasgow City Council wants to set up an injection room, but would need the support of the UK Government

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MSPs have voted in favour of establishing safe drug injection facilities in Glasgow, following a call by Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Integration Joint Board to set up an injection room in the city.

The Scottish Government motion passed with the support of Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems, calls for the UK Government to allow drugs consumption facilities to be set up.

However the Scottish Parliament cannot itself give permission for injection rooms as drugs policy is reserved, meaning that those using the room and staff could be prosecuted unless the UK Government supported the policy.

Proposing the motion, public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “I am well aware that, for some, the idea of an SDCF [safe drugs consumption facility] is unpalatable and that the idea of offering a safe space for individuals to consume drugs seems wrong.

“However, I am clear—as is the Government—that our vision for this country is one in which all our treatment and rehabilitation services are based on the principle of recovery.

“Indeed, that commitment lay at the heart of our 2008 publication “The Road to Recovery: A New Approach to Tackling Scotland’s Drug Problem”.

“For some people, the possibility of recovery or abstinence is a long way off.

“In the meantime, it is important that we focus on keeping them alive and in touch with services that may provide them with the support that they require eventually to take further steps towards their own recovery.”

Conservative spokesperson for public health Annie Wells spoke of her personal experience of having grown up in Glasgow and lost friends to drugs as she opposed the motion.

She told MSP that she did not support the policy because they needed to work “first and foremost” to get people off drugs.

She said: “I fundamentally do not support the creation of such a facility because I believe that it will mask the reasons why we have reached this crisis point in the first place.

“That is why I am calling for a full sector-led drug strategy review, as mentioned in my amendment, and an open and honest discussion about the drawbacks of such a facility.”

SNP MSP John Mason also spoke against the policy, and abstained from the vote, over concerns that the policy was “building crime into the system” since it was based on allowing the continued supply of illegal drugs.

Ahead of the debate, the Scottish Greens have called for drugs policy to be devolved to Scotland.

Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It is unacceptable that this vital health facility has been blocked due to reserved legislation. 

“Given the clear public health basis of the proposals in Glasgow, the Lord Advocate suggested that the UK Government should be approached with a request to devolve powers relevant to the control of drugs. 

“It is beyond frustrating that the UK Government has expressed no intention to devolve these powers. 

“A resolution must be found, and urgently. 

“The Scottish Greens fully support the devolution of these powers.

“They are an important health measure which cannot afford the delay of having Westminster legislate on this each and every time a new facility is required.”

Drug consumption facilities are used in a number of other countries, including Australia, as a measure to reduce drugs deaths and reduce public injecting and sharing of needles.

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