Scotland would oppose the UK government’s proposed new measures for drugs possession, such as passport confiscation, says its drugs minister Angela Constance.
In a letter to the newly appointed UK crime and policing minister, Tom Pursglove, she states that ‘increasing or expanding criminal sanctions have not in the past proven successful in preventing drug deaths’ and that she would ‘therefore oppose any decision to require Scotland to implement any of these measures’.
The controversial proposals, set out in the government’s Swift, certain, tough consultation are at odds with the recently published final report of the Scottish Drug Deaths taskforce, which renews the call for a public health approach to Scotland’s ongoing drug death crisis.
Scotland has been pushing the UK government to allow the introduction of harm reduction measures such as consumption rooms and drug-testing facilities, Constance states, adding that the white paper’s proposals are ‘disappointing’ and lacking in evidence. One of the key recommendations of the Drug Deaths Taskforce report was for the UK government to ‘immediately begin the process of reviewing the law to enable a public health approach to drugs to be implemented’, she says, and requests a ‘detailed response’ to this from the government.
As well rejecting the notion that people can be ‘punished out of addiction’, however, the taskforce report also states that the current level of funding for the Scottish treatment system remains ‘woefully inadequate for this level of public health emergency’. The total £140.7m funding for alcohol and drugs represented just 0.8 per cent of 2021-22’s health and sport budget, it says, adding that the drug death crisis had long been used as a ‘political football’ in Scotland.
Favor UK chief executive AnneMarie Ward told the Scotsman that the taskforce report was a ‘farce’ that was simply ‘rehashing’ old ideas. ‘I have seen millions of pounds pouring into the field but it’s not going towards treatment,’ she said. ‘It’s going towards the same quangos and favoured bodies, who will churn out research about how we should reduce stigma and how we should talk about drug issues. And it will do nothing to cut drug deaths.’ The taskforce’s original chair, Catriona Matheson, resigned earlier this year saying she was not prepared to do a ‘rushed job’ after the Scottish Government ordered the taskforce to complete its work six months early.
Drug law reform: letter from the minister for drugs policy at: www.gov.scot/publications/drug-law-reform-letter-from-minister-for-drugs-policy