Exclusive: SNP must be more radical on drugs, says former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill - PA
The SNP must demand more powers over drug laws in order to take a more radical approach, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said.
In a column for Holyrood, MacAskill said current attempts at harm reduction in Scotland are "inadequate" while the UK follows a "war on drugs" approach.
The comments come after official figures this week showed drugs deaths in Scotland increased by 23 per cent last year, as addicts get older and support services are stretched.
"It’s time for the Scottish Government to be radical in action and bold in demands," said MacAskill, accusing ministers of "cowardice" for not including it in a list of demands for more powers from Westminster.
"Control over drug policy has been eschewed whilst other powers demanded. But why? It can’t be they believe Westminster is either right in what they’re doing or better placed to achieve it," he said.
The 'abstinence' approach favoured by the USA and the UK has failed and led to an increase in organised crime, argued MacAskill, and more steps must be taken to promote harm reduction, including injection rooms and the use of methadone.
The thoughts were echoed by alcohol and drugs expert Dr Iain McPhee of the University of the West of Scotland, who has also called for a change in approach.
Also writing for Holyrood, McPhee said: "The government’s approach to drugs must change now.
"As a society, we must become more accepting of the harm reduction strategy. The prohibition approach alone is not the answer – as has been made abundantly clear in the most recent statistics."
Both McPhee and MacAskill point to Portugal, which decriminalised drug use in 2000 and has since seen drug related deaths fall to one fifth of the EU average.