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Scotland wants to legalise drug possession

The calls for decriminalisation come among other proposals, including increased treatments for drug overdoses and proposals for supervised drug consumption facilities

The Scottish Government has come out in support of the decriminalisation of all drugs for personal use.

During a press conference held in Edinburgh, as reported in the i, Scotland’s drugs policy minister Elena Whitman laid out the Scottish Government’s new proposals, stating, “the war on drugs has failed”.

Under the new policies and proposed legislative changes, the Scottish Government wants possession of drugs for personal use to be decriminalised. They also want to increase the testing of drugs to ensure safety, set up more provisions for emergency treatment of drug overdoses and introduce new supervised drug consumption facilities. 

“We want to create a society where problematic drug use is treated as a health, not a criminal matter, reducing stigma and discrimination and enabling the person to recover and contribute positively to society,” said Whitman at the event, which took place earlier today (July 7). 

Whitman also said that while the Scottish Government was doing all that it could to reduce drug-related deaths, adding, “our approach is simply at odds with the Westminster legislation we must operate within”. 

As it stands, the Scottish Government is unable to make any changes to legislation around drug possession as drug laws are still controlled by Westminster. And as Whitman pointed out, the only way that the Scottish Government’s policies could be implemented is “through the devolution of further, specific powers to Holyrood including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – or through independence”, or for the UK Government as a whole to change its stance on existing drug laws. 

This news follows increasing record numbers of drug-related deaths and fatal overdoses since 2015 in Scotland, which has one of the highest drug death rates in Europe. Nevertheless, the Home Office has repeatedly said that they have no plans to decriminalise drug possession, and in 2022 announced proposals that would require anyone found with drugs such as cocaine, MDMA or cannabis on their person to pay a fine or attend a drug awareness course at their own cost. The proposals also stated that those who were repeatedly caught ran the risk of having their passport and driver's licences confiscated. 

Where the Scottish Government does have control, however, is around the health and social policies around drug consumption. “Scotland needs caring, compassionate and human rights informed drugs policy, with public health and the reduction of harm as its underlying principles, and we are ready to work with the UK Government to put into practice this progressive policy,” Whitman said. 

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