A POWERFUL group of cross-party MPs and peers has urged Home Secretary Sajid Javid to sanction drug consumption rooms.

SNP MP Ronnie Cowan is among those putting pressure on Javid to allow local authorities to start pilot schemes.

The demand comes in the wake of soaring drug deaths in Scotland.

A recent move to open a safe drug consumption room in Glasgow was blocked by the UK Government, despite evidence from other countries that they can bring down drug related deaths.

Drug consumption rooms, or Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs), give addicts a safer place to take their fix with medical help, sterilised equipment and advice on hand.

“Safe consumption rooms are not a magic bullet, but the evidence for their use is overwhelming – with even the Scottish Tory health spokesperson this week admitting they could tackle overdoses,” said Cowan.

“The Home Office’s stubborn refusal to even consider trialling their use is a dereliction of duty and leaves the UK Government on the wrong side of history.

“If the UK Government refuse to act to save lives, it’s time they devolved the powers so that Scotland can take the steps necessary.”

A Home Office spokesperson said the causes of drug misuse were “complex and need a range of policy responses”.

“Many of the powers to deal with drug dependency such as healthcare, housing and criminal justice are devolved in Scotland,” he said.

“The UK Government has been clear that there is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms and there are no plans to introduce them.”

However the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform (APPG) said refusing to allow evidence-based interventions which would bring down drug-related deaths appeared to be “complacent and dangerous”.

Last week, National Records of Scotland statistics showed that more than 1100 people died from drugs in Scotland in 2018 – higher than the reported rate for any other EU country.

The APPG, which is co-chaired by Tory Crispin Blunt, Labour’s Jeff Smith and crossbench peer Baroness Meacher, and includes seven Police and Crime Commissioners, pointed out that OPCs have been set up in other countries with “good public health results” and an “absence of the feared negativeconsequences”.

“We and many of our colleagues have been assessing their value as part of local strategies to reduce drug-related deaths and infections (primarily HIV and hepatitis), as well as incidences of public disorder and needle litter,” they wrote in a letter

to Javid.

“We are supportive of areas that wish to proceed with their implementation.

“We therefore call on the Government to allow the relevant local authorities the discretion to proceed with locally developed, closely evaluated pilots.”

Baroness Meacher added: “This week’s shocking figures from Scotland, showing a 27% increase in deaths in just one year, prove that this is a public health crisis.

“Responsible local authorities are desperate to try new approaches, but are being prevented by a Home Office putting ideology before people’s lives.”

Blunt, a former minister said the international evidence was clear that OPCs saved lives.

“We are facing a crisis of drug overdose deaths, and cannot afford to reject initiatives that will help bring the death rate down,” he said.

“Policymakers must urgently escape the simplicity of ‘drugs are bad, they are banned’ and engage in evidence-based policy and the complexities about how to reduce crime and save lives.”

Smith added: “Instead of condemning and marginalising people who use drugs, we need to support and encourage them into treatment, and give them a chance to turn their lives around. Overdose prevention centres are one proven means of doing so. Nobody has ever died of an overdose in one of these centres.

“If the Government thinks there is not currently the legislative framework that would allow them to go ahead, it is their job to change that legislation.”

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, LibDem Tom Brake and peers including Baroness Neuberger and Lord Adebowale also signed the letter.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “It’s no surprise that myself and any UK Government minister will never see eye to eye on the constitution, but frankly that simply does not matter here. Lives are at stake and it is vital we take action now.

“I can’t believe that any minister in the UK Government could not have been moved by the sheer number and drug deaths so I would implore them to at least sit down with me so we can discuss how we make the changes that, while difficult, are so tangibly necessary in the face of this debt paid in human lives.”