Policing minister pressed over safe consumption rooms

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Kit Malthouse (Isabel Infantes/PA) (PA Archive)
Kit Malthouse (Isabel Infantes/PA) (PA Archive)

Policing minister Kit Malthouse has been pressed by Scotland’s drugs minister over safe consumption rooms to ease the drugs crisis north of the border.

The Scottish Government has long advocated the use of the facilities, which would give people struggling with addiction a place to inject drugs safely and in some cases would supply substances.

But the UK Government has resisted the idea, which would require an exemption to current drug laws.

We will leave no stone unturned in working to overcome existing legal barriers to implement safe consumption rooms in Scotland

Angela Constance

In a meeting of ministers from the devolved nations and Mr Malthouse near Belfast on Monday, Angela Constance again pressed the case for the facilities to be given the green light.

“I reiterated that in Scotland we continue to take a public health and evidence-led approach and stressed that while the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is reserved to the UK Government we will leave no stone unturned in working to overcome existing legal barriers to implement safe consumption rooms in Scotland,” Ms Constance said in a statement issued after the meeting.

“To that end I shared a paper on the evidence for these facilities with the ministers present and hope this will lead to meaningful discussions on the way forward.”

Some 1,339 people died from drugs in 2020 in Scotland, figures published in July showed – the most on record and the highest rate in Europe.

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The publication of the 2019 statistics in December – which showed 1,264 deaths that year – prompted the resignation of public health minister Joe FitzPatrick, the creation of Ms Constance’s role and an announcement of £250 million over the next five years to stem the problem.

The meeting, held at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast, included Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann and Welsh deputy minister for health and wellbeing Lynne Neagle.

Ms Constance continued: “We reflected on actions taken in each of the four nations over the past year and listened to a number of presentations on drugs deaths, enforcement and treatment and recovery pathways.

“I outlined work undertaken by the Scottish Government, the drugs death task force, Police Scotland NHS Scotland and the third sector to help tackle Scotland’s drug deaths crisis.

“This included detailing the many actions being taken, such as increasing the awareness of and the availability of naloxone, our rollout of Buvidal to community settings, our efforts to increase the provision of residential rehabilitation and an update on the introduction of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) standards.”

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