Labour MSP bids to introduce safer drug consumption rooms
A Labour MSP has launched a consultation on legislation to introduce overdose prevention centres in Scotland.
Also known as safer drug consumption rooms, the centres would aim to reduce drug deaths by providing users with access to sterile equipment and staff who would be able to respond immediately to overdose.
Paul Sweeney volunteered for an unofficial pilot project which saw an old ambulance converted into a prevention vehicle before he was elected to represent Glasgow last year. He says his members’ bill would pave the way for centres to be established legally.
Drug law is currently reserved to the UK Government. The Home Office has previously said there was “no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms in the UK”.
But Scotland’s Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, told MSPs last year that she would consider proposals to introduce them.
While unable to decriminalise the facilities, Bain said that prosecution of offences must be “in the public interest”.
She added: “If it is in the public interest that there should be no prosecutions for those using drug consumption facilities with all these safeguards that require to be in place, then that would require a fresh consideration.”
Sweeney has said he is “confident that overdose prevention centres can be established legally”, pointing to the recent diversion from prosecution policy introduced by Bain which gives police discretion not to arrest those found in possession of drugs.
He said: “Reversing the drug death crisis currently gripping Scotland will require a multi-faceted public health approach, and overdose prevention centres must be part of that. They are not a silver bullet, no one approach is, but our ambition here is implement changes that will save lives and overdose prevention centres will do that.”
It is the second members’ bill this session aiming to deal with Scotland’s high rate of drug deaths.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is aiming to introduce a right to rehabilitation to better support people with substance addictions.
The Scottish Government has previously supported overdose prevention centres, initially looking to establish one in Glasgow before backing down due to legal concerns.