Calls have been made from across the political spectrum for urgent changes to Scotland’s drugs laws.
This could include the introduction of specialised drug consumption rooms (DCRs), which would give people access to a supervised and hygienic space to use substances.
Already used in countries including Canada and Australia, research has found they can reduce deaths and violent crime.
Earlier this year a £1.2 million assisted treatment service was launched in Glasgow, providing pharmaceutical-grade heroin to patients with addiction who have not responded to other treatments.
Scottish ministers have been lobbying their Westminster counterparts to devolve the necessary powers to allow more facilities like these to be built.
But the UK Government has said there are “no plans” to change the laws – adding that anyone running a DCR would be “committing a range of offences”.
David Liddell, chief executive officer of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “The need for change is obvious and that change is long overdue.
“Broadly, the challenge in terms of treatment is to ensure that people with a drug problem are treated with dignity and respect.
“In addition, we need to increase the range of services across Scotland to include drug consumption rooms, heroin-assisted treatment and assertive outreach.
“We need to end the alienation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people with a drug problem – the root cause of this issue, which reflects badly on a culture and mindset that we have allowed to develop unchallenged over many years.”
It has been argued by some that the Scottish Government does already have the capability to approve the use of DCRs.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, said the existing law is “not as black and white as the Scottish and UK governments would both have us believe.”
He added: Their policies have failed, but they can each act now. “It is time Scotland learned from the lessons of other countries that have taken radical steps to reduce unnecessary and tragic drug-related deaths.”
And Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Lord Advocate has the power to act now.
“He should use his public interest discretion to ensure that no health professionals would face prosecution for providing life-saving health interventions.
“Establishing safe consumption facilities could play a significant role in reducing drug-related deaths and other serious harms.”
UK Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said he is “committed” to working with the Scottish Government to reduce the number of drug-related deaths.
He added: “We will continue to support programmes which reduce the health-related harms of drugs, such as tightening controls on dangerous substances and widening the availability of treatments which prevent overdose deaths.”
- The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has soared to its worst level on record, but Grampian appears to be bucking the trend.
- The boss of an Aberdeen charity that helps people battling addictions says safe injection rooms would bring huge benefits to the city.
- Aberdeen in Recovery (AiR) is a community of people who are recovering from substance dependence.
- Drug-related admissions to Scotland’s hospitals have more than trebled in just over two decades, according to new figures.