PEOPLE caught carrying Class A drugs in Scotland will now not face immediate prosecution, but could be issued a warning by police, MSPs have been told.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain announced the measures in Holyrood on Wednesday afternoon.

Bain called the measures “diversion from prosecution”, saying that when used in appropriate cases they would help to prevent reoffending.

She said she was “confident” the measures would help to tackle the drug deaths crisis and allow those found with drugs to be rehabilitated more easily.

In 2020, Scotland recorded 1339 deaths linked to drugs, the seventh time in a row that the number had risen.

In the first half of 2021, 722 suspected deaths were registered. While that represents a drop of nine from 2020, it also puts the country on track to break the drugs death record for an eighth year running.

The new policy aims to help to reverse the trend.

Bain said that the current policy in place allows the use of Recorded Police Warnings (RPWs) to deal with cases of possession of Class B and C drugs.

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She went on: “I have decided that an extension of the Recorded Police Warning Guidelines to include possession of 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.”

Bain later added: “What is being done is to ensure that any dealing with these cases by the criminal justice process is tailored to the needs of each individual and provides the opportunity to each individual to meet the underlying causes of offending, and ultimately prevent reoffending.”

Class A drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD. Speed, cannabis, and ketamine are currently in Class B, while GMB and anabolic steroids fall under Class C.

Bain made clear that the RPW extension does not cover drug supply offences, but only possession. She also said that neither offering nor accepting a warning is mandatory, that police could still refer a vulnerable person to support services, and that police would "retain the ability to report appropriate cases to the Procurator Fiscal".

Scottish Tories rushed to condemn the move, with Murdo Fraser labelling it “effective decriminalisation of drug possession and use in Scotland”.

The Lord Advocate said she “did not accept” this characterisation when it was put forward in the chamber by Tory MSP Pam Gosal. Bain said that RPWs still remain on a person’s record for two years for consideration by police or prosecutors.

She added: “I simply reject what’s been said, that it’s de facto decriminalisation, it simply isn’t.”

Green MSP Maggie Chapman said the extension of RPW guidelines was a “very important step on the way to ensuring a public health approach to the drug crisis Scotland faces”.

Alba MP Kenny MacAskill said it was a "welcome and sensible announcement by the Lord Advocate".