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Lib Dems call for decriminalisation ahead of drugs summit

February 24, 2020 9:50 AM

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today said that the Scottish Government should radically overhaul their drug policy, stop sending those caught with drugs for personal use to prison and instead ensure that medical services are available to assist those who misuse drugs.

The Scottish Government will hold a major drug conference on 26th February in Glasgow, one day before the UK Government hold a similar summit in the same city.

In the face of record drug deaths, Scottish Liberal Democrats have laid out a series of proposals for tackling Scotland's drug misuse crisis which include:

  • plans to send people caught in possession of drugs for personal use for treatment and education
  • a review of the underuse of drug treatment and testing orders
  • proposals for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment
  • a ministerial commitment to protect the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships

While the classification of drugs is a reserved issue, a Scottish Affairs Select Committee confirmed last year that the Scottish Government "could do more within its existing powers".

Liberal Democrats have argued this must include the Scottish Government and Lord Advocate supporting the new diversion system, learning from programmes that already exist in North Wales, Durham and Thames Valley.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

"The sight of the Scottish and UK Governments holding rival conferences on the same issue in the same city only a day apart is a damning indictment of their collective failure to tackle soaring numbers of drugs deaths.

"Both of Scotland's governments are stuck in the last century. We've had a war on drugs for decades, and drugs won. Now it is about learning lessons and facing up to reality.

"Successful schemes already exist elsewhere in the UK to divert people from the criminal justice system and into the health system, but the Scottish Government is lagging way behind. Prison does not help people to get clean, in fact all the evidence suggests it makes things worse.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats have outlined common-sense, evidence-based proposals for how Scotland can break the cycle and the Scottish Government have conceded that a public health approach must be taken. Now they need to actually deliver.

"The Scottish Government should back this new approach to people caught with drugs for personal use and ensure that treatment and education services are in place to support those referred there instead of prison."