THE First Minister has urged the UK Government not to block a safe drug consumption room pilot after the Lord Advocate gave the scheme the green light.

Humza Yousaf said the statement by Scotland’s top law officer not to prosecute drug users for possession of illegal substances in such a facility was “very significant”.

However, he cautioned that without approval from the Home Office, the pilot set for Glasgow would be “limited in scope” and authorities would have to be cautious about how it was implemented.

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Earlier, Dorothy Bain released a statement setting out that she 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”.

The Lord Advocate’s statement comes after her consideration of a detailed proposal for a pilot by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership and Police Scotland, facilitated by the Scottish Government.

The UK Government has repeatedly rejected pleas for such a facility to be given approval, insisting that there is “no safe way to take illegal drugs”.

It comes after a Home Affairs Committee report backed a pilot being introduced in Glasgow, and if the UK Government still refused to do so, the powers over drug laws should be devolved to Scotland.

The National:

Speaking at a visit to Techscaler in Stirling on Monday, Yousaf (above) told The National that the Lord Advocate’s statement was “very significant indeed” and urged the Home Office to reconsider its “ideological objection” to a safe consumption room pilot.

Asked if he was concerned that the UK Government might move to block the pilot, he said: “I would really urge them not to do so, I know there have been a number of issues that they have stepped in and vetoed, blocked and torpedoed.

“I would really urge them not to do so when it comes to an issue of this criticality, of this importance, we’re talking about saving lives, helping to save lives, of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.

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“So I would urge the UK Government to give approval, look at the evidence, look at the prosecution policy from the Lord Advocate, reconsider their opposition and as I say give approval.”

Yousaf explained that without the UK Government’s approval, the scheme would have “limitations” but vowed to support Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership as it navigates the process.

“I would say that my understanding is the pilot will still have some limitations so it’s really important that we continue also the engagement with the UK Government and ask them to reconsider what seems to be an ideological objection to giving approval for this pilot,” he said.

“I hope they’d reconsider, at least give us the power so that we can give the pilot full approval.”

Asked what limitations may be imposed on the pilot scheme, the FM said it would depend “on the pilot”.

“It means that the pilot might have to be narrower in scope. It means that the prosecution statement that we have from the Lord Advocate is pretty clear around simple possession in terms of what actually takes place in any pilot, so we just need to be careful in terms of what that pilot is, of the scope of that pilot.

“It would still be preferable in my eyes to have approval from the UK Government than having to rely on a very narrow but welcome statement from the Lord Advocate.”

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A Home Office spokesperson said it had "no plans" to consider safe consumption rooms in response to the FM's comments.

“We continue to share learnings from Project ADDER with the Scottish Government and exchange insights from initiatives aimed at addressing drug use," a spokesperson said. "We welcome these ongoing discussions.” 

Earlier, Bain said in the statement: “I have 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.”

The Lord Advocate added that her statement did not amount to “an exclusion zone whereby a range of criminality is tolerated”, and will not extend to any other criminal offences.

The National:

Police Scotland will still have the ability to “effectively police the facility” ensuring that the wider community, those operating the pilot and users of the facility are “kept safe”, she added.

The statement comes after figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed there were a total of 1051 deaths due to drug misuse in Scotland in 2022.

While this is down by 279 from the previous year, the NRS report made clear the rate of deaths is still “much higher” than it was when recording the data began in 1996.

With a rate of 19.8 drug misuse deaths for every 100,000 people in 2022, it has the highest drug death rate in Europe.