THE Scottish Government’s top lawyer has given the green light to safe drug consumption rooms in Scotland.

In a statement released on Monday, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain said it would ““not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users” possessing drugs within a consumption room, if such a facility were to be created.

While concerns abound that this could lead to yet another constitutional rammy between the Scottish Government and Westminster, it’s worth focusing on what safe consumption rooms do – and do not – provide.

What is a safe drug consumption room?

The first modern safe drug consumption facility was established in Berne, Switzerland in 1986.

As concern grew about an increase in overdose deaths and the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users, authorities decided that a “harm reduction” approach should be prioritised over criminalising the practice.

A space was created with the goal of reducing the risks of disease transmission and overdose-related deaths.

READ MORE: Scottish Tories at odds with Home Office on drug consumption rooms

Safe consumption rooms do this by medically supervising drug users, primarily those injecting themselves with needles.

They provide sterile equipment, support and counselling services, emergency care in the event of an overdose, and give drug users access to healthcare and addiction treatment services.

Since 1986 other facilities have appeared in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and Greece.

Where will they be located?

According to the Scottish Drugs Forum, safe consumption rooms tend to be located in places that are experiencing problems with public drug use.

Health experts also target populations of drug users who may have limited opportunities for hygienic injection – for example, people experiencing homelessness or living in insecure accommodation.

Campaigner Peter Krykant’s unsanctioned overdose prevention van was located in an area of Glasgow city centre where drug users were known to inject.

How do they work?

There have been diverse models rolled out across Europe as to who is eligible to use a safe consumption room.

Some restrict access only to registered users, with specific requirements being met before they are permitted access (i.e. minimum age and local residency).

Drugs cannot be traded or sold between users within the facility and staff cannot assist in administering their drugs.

They tend to be staffed by nurses and social workers. However, doctors, security staff and qualified volunteers may also be part of the team.