GLASGOW’S pioneering drug consumption room will be shaped by research carried out in New York City, the First Minister has said.

Humza Yousaf told MSPs he was “grateful” that the city would work “at pace” to establish the UK’s first official pilot of a drug consumption facility and said he had spoken with a top health official who had pledged to share data from similar schemes in the Big Apple. 

Speaking during a meeting with the convenors of all the Scottish Parliament’s committees, Yousaf said his Government would help fund the project and was “ready to stand alongside” as it worked to get their scheme off the ground.

His comments came just shortly after news broke on Wednesday that Glasgow’s Integration Joint Board – a committee which pulls together the local health service, council workers and others – had agreed plans for the creation of a drug consumption room.

They have been highly anticipated and come after the Scottish Government’s top lawyer Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain gave the scheme the green light by promising people taking drugs in such a facility would not be prosecuted.

Drug consumption rooms are found worldwide, including in America and Europe, and have been found to reduce drug deaths by giving users a safe and clean place in which to take drugs, as well as providing access to services like healthcare and social work.

'Moving at pace'

The First Minister said: “I’ve seen the news today that Glasgow has approved a safer drug consumption room facility, it’s a decision I very much welcome.

“I also welcome the Lord Advocate’s most recent statement in relation to prosecution policy in this regard, as well, so I’m very grateful to Glasgow as well for moving at pace.

The National: Sydney drug consumption room. Credit: Uniting MSIC

“And let me say unequivocally, the Scottish Government is ready to stand alongside Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership and our colleagues within local government to advance this proposition as quickly as we possibly can, obviously within the confines of the pilot that was proposed and received at the statement of prosecution policy from the Lord Advocate.

“And that extends to, for example, how we can provide funding support for that safer drug consumption facility, too.

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“It will be for Glasgow to take forward and I’ve no doubt, in the discussions that we as a Government have had with Glasgow thus far, they are very mindful of taking the community alongside us and alongside them and also in taking forward the views of those with lived experience.”

He went on to praise the work of drug campaigners like Peter Krykant, who operated a drug consumption room from a van in Glasgow’s city centre.

“I think it’s appropriate for me to pay tribute to the likes of Peter Krykant and others who have spoken about their own experience in this regard and have, frankly, pushed us all to take more actions in the face of an unacceptable drug deaths crisis,” said Yousaf. 

The First Minister said a meeting with New York City’s commissioner for health Dr Ashwin Vasan, made when he was in the city for Climate Week earlier this month, promised to bear fruit in the form of data relating to their schemes which would help inform Glasgow’s approach.

The National: Humza Yousaf speaking at New York climate week

Vasan had also stressed the importance of getting local residents living near facilities on board with the plans, Yousaf said.

He added: “While I was in New York, primarily for Climate Week, I did take some time to speak with the New York [city] commissioner for health, for the department of health, Dr [Vasan] and he had mentioned to me that their experience of having safer drug consumption facilties for the last 18 months, I believe, was that it was imperative to try to take the public with you as best you possibly could.

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“And the second point he made, which I know one is Glasgow are absolutely committed to, is that it isn’t just about the safer drug consumption facility.

"It’s also about all the services that are co-located and wrapped around that, and I believe that New York are going to be publishing some data from the first 18 months of the safer drug consumption facility and that’s been promised to be shared with us in the Scottish Government and I’m sure we can then share with Glasgow.

“But it certainly, it seems to have been a helpful and positive experience in New York, as being one tool as part of a wider effort to reduce drug deaths.”