THE Home Office has again rejected cross-party calls to introduce safe drug consumption rooms – despite a major report recommending the department change tack to save lives. 

In a report from Westminster’s Home Affairs Committee published today, the Government was urged to press ahead with trials for safe consumption rooms like the one proposed for Glasgow as part of a raft of recommendations to overhaul UK drug policy.

But the suggestion was rejected out of hand by the Home Office – responsible for setting the UK’s drug laws – with the department insisting there was “no safe way to take illegal drugs”.

It is a statement that infuriates campaigners who point to the use of such facilities across the world.

The National: Peter Krykant and drug consumption van at Parnie Street, Glasgow..Mark F Gibson / Gibson Digital images © Gibson Digital 2020. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the

Speaking to The National from Copenhagen, where such facilities are in use, drugs campaigner Peter Krykant (above) said he believed the Conservatives and Labour were pandering to the electorate with their hardline stances on drugs.

He said: “Some of it right now is the political rhetoric leading up to the General Election next year.

“I think we’ve got UK Labour in terms of their stance, it’s been a very hardline approach – ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.

“Steve Reed, the shadow justice secretary, he’s been out in the newspapers saying that we absolutely need to name and shame drug users. You’ve got Keir Starmer talking about cannabis ruining people’s lives because the smell of it goes into other people’s properties.

“We’ve got this rhetoric right now and it’s like, who can be the tougher in terms of vying for this centre-right vote for the General Election next year.”

READ MORE: The truth about cannabis is clear if you see through UK smokescreen

Justina Murray, chief executive of Scottish Families Affected by Drugs, said: “Families affected by a loved one’s drug use have repeatedly shown their support for any measures which reduce harm, including overdose prevention centres, and for any measures which keep their loved ones out of the justice system.”

She added: “Harm-reduction measures such as those proposed by the Home Affairs Committee have a strong international evidence base that they reduce drug deaths, harm and risk, consequently improving the lives of individuals, families and communities.”

In its report, the cross-party group of MPs said UK ministers should allow for the creation of a facility where drug users can take drugs like heroin or crack in a safe, clean and supervised facility in Glasgow.

It proposed a facility should be funded both by the Scottish and UK governments – and legally sanctioned by the Home Office, which has control over the drug laws which have to date prevented plans for such a facility.

More widely, the report also called on the Government to fund similar facilities in areas where local authorities or other organisations said they were needed.

Krykant, who ran an unsanctioned but tolerated safe consumption room in a van in Glasgow (below), said governments must wake up to the scale of the problem and argued public opinion on drug laws was changing in favour of more liberal laws.

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He said: “I think at some point [the Government and Labour] are going to have to change their stance because the general public are becoming a lot more aware of the fact that most people who use drugs don’t ever have any issues or problems with them.

“And when people do have an issue or problem with drugs, the last thing that’s going to help them is criminalisation or punishment.”

Other recommendations

The report urged the Government to adopt a public-health approach to drug use and recommended existing laws – particularly around the scheduling of drugs into classes based on potential for harm – be reviewed.

READ MORE: Drug consumption rooms ‘fairly normal’ in other countries

A Home Office spokesperson 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.

“Our 10-year Drugs Strategy set out ambitious plans, backed with a record £3 billion funding over three years to tackle the supply of illicit drugs through relentless policing action and building a world-class system of treatment and recovery to turn people's lives around and prevent crime.”

Other parties remain steadfast in their calls for UK drug laws to be reformed.

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SNP home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss (above) said safe consumption rooms could “save lives”.

But she added: “Sadly, as we’ve seen far too many times, the Tories are far more interested in playing political games than they are in saving lives, proving that to implement real change that will reduce deaths and benefit communities we need the full powers of independence.”

Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay called for Scotland to be given the ability to set its own drug laws, saying: “With full power over drug legislation Scotland can move on from our current broken system and focus on harm reduction and undoing the damage that has been done."

Christine Jardine, the LibDems’ home affairs spokesperson, said the report was “common sense” and highlighted its recommendation for government support for drug-testing facilities at music festivals to prevent overdoses.