Safe consumption rooms where illicit drugs are effectively decriminalised should be rolled out in Scotland to reduce the country’s drug-related death rate, an SNP MP has argued.
Anne McLaughlin said it is “absolutely clear” that her family member who died from a heroin overdose would be alive today had safe consumption rooms been offered.
Scotland has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe.
The idea of safe consumption rooms is to encourage users who inject heroin or cocaine to enter a safe and clean environment. It is hoped the special rooms would encourage addicts into treatment.
Safe consumption rooms have the support of the Scottish Government but drug laws are reserved to Westminster.
Speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate in the Commons, Ms McLaughlin said: “In Scotland last year, we lost 1,187 of our citizens to drug-related deaths.
“The Scottish Government has set up a drug deaths task force made up of a range of experts including those with lived experience.
“They’re looking at the changes they can make, but some changes can be made without the permission of the UK Government.
“The Scottish Government wants to allow injecting drug users to use a safe and supervised facility so that if they go into overdose, someone is there to get help.
“But they, the grown-up democratically elected Government of Scotland, are not allowed to do this.”
Ms McLaughlin called for “the devolution of powers to enable Scotland to provide safe injecting facilities. I am one of those people with lived experience of drug addiction. I lost a family member to a heroin overdose.
“He died, yes because he injected heroin, but also because when he went into overdose instead of calling for medical assistance, his friends took flight and left the scene because they were scared they would be arrested.
“It’s absolutely clear to me that he would still be with us today if those facilities had been available and thus he had been allowed to feed his terrible addiction in relative safety.
“And disappointed as I am not to see anything in the Queen’s Speech to help people in that position, I will work with other families, I will work with drug users in Glasgow North East and I will work with campaigners like Saver UK to fight for whatever measures are necessary to preserve lives and to make those lives worth living.”
Glasgow City Council first proposed allowing users to take their own drugs under the supervision of medical staff at a special facility in the city in 2016.
Speaking next in the Queen’s Speech debate, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt (Reigate) called for “sensible policy, based on evidence, across the whole United Kingdom”.
Mr Blunt said: “It’s clear that Scotland faces the same scale of challenge on drug policy as Portugal did in the late 1990s that then led to a radical change of policy in Portugal and many would argue, on the basis of evidence, that the change that Portugal has made has been of huge benefit to the people of Portugal.”
He added: “The deaths from heroin overdoses in Portugal, which were at a catastrophic level in the late 1990s, have dropped in the most astonishing manner, whilst in Scotland, perhaps a country of comparable size, the figures remain, as the honourable lady (Ms McLaughlin) said, on a horrifying scale.”