APPLICATIONS will be made for drug testing facilities in three Scottish cities, drugs policy minister Elena Whitham has said.

The Scottish Government minister added the plans for Aberdeen, Glasgow and Dundee are awaiting “final communications” from the Home Office.

MSPs also backed a motion calling for an urgent review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, adopting a “public health response” which decriminalises drugs for personal use. Whitham’s motion passed by 66 votes to 45.

A Conservative amendment opposed decriminalisation and said the problem should be tackled through the proposed Right to Recovery Bill. This was defeated with 28 votes in favour and 66 against.

A Labour amendment noted that “no formal application has been made to establish drug checking services in Scotland and medication assisted treatment standards are yet to be fully implemented”. This was defeated with 21 votes in favour and 90 against.

READ MORE: Scottish Government backs decriminalisation of personal drug use

It comes as the proposed pilot of a safe consumption room for drugs moves closer.

Scotland’s Lord Advocate has said it “would not be in the public interest” to prosecute users of such a facility for drugs possession while the Home Office has confirmed it will not intervene on any plans.

Whitham took part in the debate via video link as she was ill with Covid. She told MSPs: “This Government is clear, the war on drugs is over.

“No-one won and the main casualties were not organised criminals. They were the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society who need our help, not driven further into the margins.”

Whitham was asked about the Government’s plans for drugs checking services, which aim to reduce harm by testing illegal substances and potentially reducing overdoses.

Work on pilots for these facilities has been undertaken involving Stirling University, with Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee identified as potential areas.

She said: “We are now moving to the phase of helping those areas to apply for licences.

“We are awaiting final communications from the UK Home Office that will help us to make sure those licence applications can go and be met with the most sympathetic ear possible.”

The minister said she would update Holyrood on the plans.

READ MORE: SNP meeting to discuss Fergus Ewing disciplinary action postponed

Whitham also used her motion to call for an urgent review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to include decriminalising drugs for personal use, adding that the Scottish Government should work constructively with the UK Government to either amend it or seek to devolve the powers to Scotland to draft its own drugs legislation.

She said: "There is clear evidence to show that much more could be achieved if we had the power to fully implement the public health approach we’re committed to.”

The motion passed by 66 votes to 45. 

The Tories’ Sue Webber said during the debate that drugs deaths have “spiralled out of control” under the SNP.

She said her party did not oppose plans for the pilot of a safe consumption room but did not support the SNP’s position of decriminalising drugs.

Webber said: “Decriminalising class A drugs will not help tackle Scotland’s drug death crisis and could make it more difficult for the police to tackle the criminal gangs that profit from this trade and cause misery for our communities across Scotland.”

The National: Jackie Baillie MSP

Labour’s Jackie Baillie (above) said safe consumption rooms were first proposed six or seven years ago, yet no progress has been made in this time.

She said: “Clearly nothing has been done for six to seven years.

“I appreciate the current Lord Advocate’s position.

“But it’s the same Scottish Government, the same policy for a safe consumption room, and that policy has simply not been delivered before.”