SNP members back decriminalisation of drugs

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The Scottish Drugs Forum has welcomed the move, which it says would reduce harm.

14th October 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

SNP delegates have backed the decriminalisation of controlled drugs in a move that has been welcomed by a Scottish charity.

Delegates at the SNP conference in Aberdeen this weekend gave their “overwhelming support” to the move and branded the current Misuse Of Drugs Act, which dates back to 1971, as "not fit for purpose".

Attendees also called for the devolution of powers to enable the "decriminalisation of possession and consumption of controlled drugs".

It comes after attempts to create a drugs consumption room in Glasgow, where users could take substances in a controlled environment, were blocked by the UK Home Office.

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, told the conference that Scotland is facing a public health crisis around drugs, and called for drugs law to be devolved to allow the Scottish Government to take the “vital steps” needed to tackle the problem.

"UK drugs law is not working for Scotland,” she told attendees.

"People are dying on our streets and the risk to the general public from discarded needles and transmission of blood borne diseases is very real - yet the Tories at Westminster sit on their hands.”

David Liddell, CEO of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said a policy of decriminalisation would address “several issues” that cause unnecessary harm to people who use drugs, as well as to others in the community.

“The clandestine nature of drug use can stop people seeking information and help from treatment and other professionals,” he added.

“People who regard their use as non- problematic are not open with health professionals, who could otherwise link their health issues with their drug use. People who are already experiencing harms present to services later and in the face of more serious harms than they might otherwise have had.

“Criminalisation clearly stigmatises people and has negative effects on people’s sense of self and identity. This, for some, leads to more marginalisation and more drug use.”

A total of 1,187 deaths in Scotland last year were classed as “drug-related”. This was a 27% increase on the previous year, although research has found that many of the fatalities were among an older cohort who had been using illegal drugs for many years.

Decriminalisation would takes away the status of criminal law from those acts to which it is applied, such as possession and consumption. It would also reframe drug use as a health issue, rather than a criminal one.

Mr Liddell said: “We support the decriminalisation of possession as it would reduce harm. We have seen some positive movements in Scotland under existing law - the use of recorded police warnings for cannabis possession for example. These should now be extended to cover all drugs.

“Some police authorities in England have gone further under the current legislation than we have in Scotland. There are models there for how we could develop decriminalisation in Scotland now. These are encouraging signs - it is hugely significant that the government party is now taking a lead in these matters.”

Andrew Horne, director of drug and alcohol charity Addaction, also welcomed the SNPs support for decriminalisation.

He said: “Trying to arrest our way out of the problem has been a monumental failure, so it’s heartening to see a political party listening to the evidence base.

“People who develop problems with drugs need compassion and support, not punishment. It’s crucial to remember that drug use has no social barriers. People from all walks of life use drugs and all deserve equal treatment for what is ultimately a health and care issue - not a criminal one.”