Swinney: Government in ‘active discussions’ on drugs consumption room

The deputy first minister said talks are going on with Police Scotland, the Crown Office, NHSGGC and others.

Swinney: Government in ‘active discussions’ on drugs consumption room PA Wire

Ministers are in “active discussions” about the possible establishment of a drugs consumption room, John Swinney has confirmed.

The deputy first minister said there had been a “great deal of dialogue” with organisations including Police Scotland, the Crown Office and health bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

It comes after Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC, said earlier this month that fresh consideration could be given to the establishment of such a facility.

Swinney said the Scottish Government was “clear on the benefits safer drug consumption facilities would bring to reducing drug-related deaths in Scotland”.

He added: “We are actively exploring how we can overcome the existing legal barriers that will allow us to progress the use of these facilities.”

The deputy first minister, filling in for Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood while she attends the COP26 summit in Glasgow, told MSPs the matter is “actively being pursued”

In 2017 the then lord advocate James Wolffe QC refused to back plans to set up a drug consumption facility in Glasgow.

But Bain recently told MSPs that given Scotland’s “undoubted crisis” in terms of drug-related deaths – with a record 1339 recorded in 2020 – the question of “if it is in the public interest that there should be no prosecutions for those using drugs consumption facilities” could come in for “fresh consideration by me as Lord Advocate”.

Responding to a question from Labour’s Claire Baker that those remarks “confirm a new opportunity for new proposals to be considered regarding safer drug consumption facilities”, Swinney said there was “clear evidence” they could reduce fatal overdoses and could provide users with additional support.

He said: “The government is taking forward active discussions to establish what could be an acceptable route to enable the appropriate use of drug consumption rooms as part of a public health strategy to tackle the drugs problems that we face in Scottish society.

“That involves a great deal of dialogue with a range of organisations, Police Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Crown and various other organisations.”

He could not give a timescale but assured MSPs the matter is “being actively pursued as a consequence of the remarks made by the Lord Advocate”.

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