Scotland is on a collision course with the UK government after the Lord Advocate gave the green light for a trial of safe drug consumption rooms.
Dorothy Bain KC, Scotland’s top law officer said it would not be in the public interest to prosecute users of such facilities in possession of illegal drugs.
Drug consumption rooms are supervised, controlled environments aimed at reducing overdoses and deaths of users and addicts. The UK government is firmly against them, saying there is no safe way to take illegal drugs and the Home Office controls the UK-wide drugs policy.
In a statement released today (September 11), Scotland’s Lord Advocate said she has “not been asked to sign-off or approve any facility and it would not be appropriate for me to do so.
“However, prosecution policy is for me alone to set and this policy, and the consequences which flow from it, have been considered deeply and thoroughly.”
Bain said: “On the basis of the information I have been provided, I would be prepared to publish a prosecution policy that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users for simple possession offences committed within a pilot safer drugs consumption facility.”
Safe drug consumption rooms has Holyrood support
The Lord Advocate’s statement is, the National reports, “likely to trigger a constitutional row” between the governments in Holyrood and Westminster.
The Scottish government has been a long term proponent of trialling safe drug consumption rooms and said it will press ahead with plans to open one in Glasgow. It has the support of all major parties at Holyrood, with even the Scottish Conservatives giving their backing.
However, the UK Conservative government is staunchly opposed to such spaces and has ruled out amending the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act or devolving powers to Holyrood to allow their introduction.
In a statement responding to the Lord Advocate, the Home Office said: “There is no safe way to take illegal drugs, which devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities and we have no plans to consider this.
“We continue to share learnings from Project Adder with the Scottish Government and exchange insights from initiatives aimed at addressing drug use. We welcome these ongoing discussions.”
Disposable vapes ban plan for England
Meanwhile, ministers are set to unveil plans to ban the sale of disposable vapes in a bid to reduce their use among children and combat the environmental damage caused by their dumping.
“Disposable vapes are almost entirely aimed at kids and they are environmentally damaging. There is a wide consensus emerging on the need to act,” a senior Whitehall source told the Telegraph.
New government proposals to ban the use of disposable vapes could be published next week by the department of health. It will only apply in England as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved powers on the issue to decide themselves.
It is estimated that 11.6% of British children aged 11-17 have tried vaping – up from 7.7% last year.