SCOTLAND’s drugs death rate is more than twice that of anywhere else in the UK and MPs have been told that changing drugs policy or devolving it could help tackle the disproportionately high figure.

The most recent official figures show 934 drug deaths in Scotland in 2017, up from 224 in 1997, making the rate 2.5-times higher than elsewhere.

In written evidence to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into problem drug use, organisations including NHS Health Scotland, Addaction and the Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Partnership have called for changes to UK legislation or further devolution of powers to enable testing and safer consumption centres to be set up.

Proposals to set up a safer injecting centre in Glasgow to tackle the drug-related HIV outbreak – 140 people were diagnosed as of last month – is blocked by UK legislation.

NHS Health Scotland said: “The UK-wide Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 prevents the Scottish Government from pursuing their public health approach to drugs policy and from implementing evidence-based interventions to address the specific drivers of problem drug use in Scotland, notably around safer consumption facilities.

“This means the Scottish Government is prevented from pursuing the best possible health outcomes for people who are, or have been, drug users.”

One of its key recommendations was to make changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, to enable the Scottish Government to pursue their public health approach to drugs policy – which included piloting a safer consumption facility in Glasgow city centre – or devolving powers in this area.

And experts said the city has the “most compelling case in Europe” for a safer drug consumption room.

Professor Catriona Matheson of Stirling University told the committee that parts of the legislation, while having benefits to pharmacists and police, were a “barrier to intervention”.

Dr Emily Tweed, of Glasgow University said there was international evidence that safer drug consumption rooms work: “What these facilities are able to do is they reach the people most at risk.

“They reduce the risk of sharing needles and equipment and reduce public injecting and improve the uptake of services.”

Charity Addaction said: “This legislation precludes Scotland from controlling the schedule or classification of specific drugs as well as introducing certain policies or services that could be interpreted as breaching that legislation, most notably drug consumption rooms.”

Poverty and deprivation were cited as drivers of problematic drug use, along with mental health issues and adverse childhood experiences.

Committee chair Pete Wishart said: “As we start our inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland it’s important that we understand why some people are more likely to engage in drugs use so support can be targeted to people at greater risk.”