As organisations that work in drug policy and harm reduction, we welcome the evidence-based proposals in the new report published by the Scottish Government proposing a road map for the future of drug policy and law in Scotland. We share the view of the report that drug policy based on health and human rights achieves better outcomes for individuals, their families, communities and wider society.
In recognition of the damaging global impact of criminalisation, the United Nations supports a legal and policy position that promotes the reduction of harm and the decriminalisation of people who use drugs. We welcome this report as a step towards the UN’s position, and the development of effective policy and services in Scotland.
Ending criminal sanctions for people in possession of drugs for personal use; the provision of a full range of harm reduction services and support; and improvement in the accessibility and acceptability of treatment services for people who experience drug dependency are all required to address the public health emergency that Scotland has been in for some years.
Scotland has made progress on all these fronts, and yet the prevalence of people experiencing drug dependence, and the number of drug related deaths remain very high by international standards, underpinned by persistent broader health inequalities. Further innovation and investment is clearly required.
We further support the proposed evidence-led review into how the use of drugs, their production and supply could be regulated. This review would inform a debate around wider reforms to drugs legislation.
We welcome the recognition of the harmful role that criminalisation, poverty and stigma, play in the lives of so many. People who use drugs, especially those who experience dependence, face discrimination every day, and the Scottish Government’s desire to end the exclusion of this group from equality legislation is to be commended.
We also welcome the Scottish Government’s acknowledgment and commitment to centring those with living and lived experience in policy making and implementation.
UK legislation and regulations, especially the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, serve as an impediment to many of the urgently needed evidence-based reforms highlighted in the report, including the decriminalisation of drug possession; the provision of supervised drug consumption facilities and drug safety checking services; and even heroin assisted treatment.
Scotland has developed innovative responses using its own legal system, police force, healthcare system and civic society. Progress has already been made in terms of the extension of recorded warnings for drug possession, policing arrangements and the legal basis for injecting equipment provision services and its world-leading take home naloxone programme. Scotland must also use these same assets to deliver supervised drug consumption rooms and drug checking services as a matter of urgency.
Drug-related deaths are at an all-time high, in Scotland and across the UK. The UK Government must either work to reform legislation to enable the vital reforms proposed in this report across all four nations, or sufficiently devolve powers to allow each country to enact these policies themselves in order to save lives, and support communities.
Kirsten Horsburgh, CEO, Scottish Drugs Forum
Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director, Harm Reduction International
Judy Chang, Executive Director, INPUD – International Network of People who Use Drugs
Ann Fordham, Executive Director, International Drug Policy Consortium
Ruby Rose Lawlor, Executive Director, Youth RISE
Mat Southwell, Project Executive, EuroNPUD – European Network of People who Use Drugs
Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director, Release
Alex Feis-Bryce, CEO, Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Jason Kew, Senior Innovative Practice Officer, Centre For Justice Innovation
Peter Krykant, Campaigns Lead, Cranstoun