Warnings to be issued for possession of Class A drugs
People found with Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine will now being given a police warning as an alternative to prosecution.
Setting out the changes in the Scottish Parliament, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain said the issuing of Recorded Police Warnings was "a speedy, effective and proportionate means of dealing with low-level offending".
Police warnings had previously been used to deal with those found in possession of cannabis.
While both Scottish Labour and the Greens welcomed the change, the Scottish Conservatives said it amounted to "de-facto decriminalisation".
Figures published in July showed that there were 1,339 drug deaths last year, a record number.
Addressing MSPs the lord advocate said: "In Scotland, prosecutors act as the gatekeepers to the criminal justice system and, subject to some limited exceptions, it is the duty of the police to report a case to the prosecutor where they believe there is sufficient evidence that an offence has been committed. It is then for the prosecutor to decide what, if any, prosecutorial action is in the public interest.
"One of those limited exceptions to report to the prosecutor is the Recorded Police Warning scheme. The scheme provides officers with a speedy, effective and proportionate means of dealing with low-level offending. Officers may choose to deal with low-level offences by issuing a Recorded Police Warning.
"I have decided that an extension of the Recorded Police Warning Guidelines to include possession offences for Class A drugs is appropriate. Police officers may therefore choose to issue a Recorded Police Warning for simple possession offences for all classes of drugs."
Scottish Labour drugs policy spokesperson Claire Baker said she hoped the decision would lead to more drug users getting the support they need.
She said: “Scotland’s drugs death crisis is a scandal of national proportions and it is only right that a public health approach is taken to tackle it.
“Nonetheless, with a rise in the number of drug-related cases being diverted, it is incumbent on the SNP government to ensure that our social services are properly resourced."
But Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene MSP said: “The Scottish Parliament must have a say with a full debate and vote on this topic, not just a quick Q&A session. We need to fully scrutinise the gravity of a decision of such importance and magnitude.
“Scotland’s drug death crisis is our national shame but the way to tackle it is improve access to treatment and rehabilitation, not to dilute how seriously we treat possession of deadly drugs like heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine.
“The answer to our drugs crisis is more access to treatment, not this de-facto decriminalisation by the back door of drugs that are the scourge of our streets and our society."