THE UK's Policing Minister is to call a four-nations summit in Glasgow to tackle drugs deaths, the Scottish Affairs Committee has heard.

Almost 1200 people suffered drug-related deaths in Scotland last year, with fatalities concentrated in the Greater Glasgow, Lothian, Lanarkshire and Tayside health board areas.

The level is almost three times that of the UK as a whole and higher than that of any other EU country.

But appearing before the committee's inquiry into problem drug use earlier today, Home Office minister Kit Malthouse refused to back calls for legal drug consumption rooms – so-called fix rooms – in Scotland's biggest city.

Setting one up, in line with practices in countries like Portugal and Canada, would require UK Government action because Westminster retains powers over drug laws.

That's despite backing for a supervised centre from local council, health chiefs and police, as well as the Scottish Government.

Malthouse, who has been in the role for three months, insisted he has "an open mind" on the issue, but said he was "worried" about becoming "fixated on one particular solution as a political flag that we can wave to say, 'look, we're doing something.'"

And, criticising the Scottish Government, he told the cross-party panel: "The Scottish Government decided to invest less money in treatment for a number of years and have seen the result of that, and suddenly instead of treatment being the solution ... suddenly we've got this debate about a so-called silver bullet which is used as a point of conflict. My view is that we should be working together on these issues.

"I intend to hold a summit in Glasgow, in the heart of the problem in Scotland, so that we can sit down and talk about what more we can do together."

As the session began, committee chair Pete Wishart MP voiced frustration at the lack of engagement from the Home Office with the inquiry, despite its life-and-death subject matter.

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READ MORE: Pete Wishart urges Home Office to review drug legislation

He said: "This has been an immensely frustrating experience, trying to secure a Home Office minister for this very, very important inquiry. The Home Office was first invited to give evidence to this committee in April, beginning of May. We are almost now at Halloween.

"This is a really important inquiry, with the amount of drug deaths we have seen across the United Kingdom, and we find it really, really exasperating, the fact that we couldn't secure a Home Office minister to come and give evidence. We have had to delay our report."

Responding, Johnson appointee Malthouse said he was "here now" and called the drug deaths figures for 2018 – which includes 4360 from drug poisoning in England and Wales – "alarming".

He said countries like Portugal with existing drug consumptions rooms had invested heavily in treatment and education, and said UK police are working to disrupt "county lines" drug trafficking networks which cross borders.

The evidence session followed the publication of a paper by Westminster’s Health and Social Care Committee which backed the adoption of a public health approach to drug policy to reduce deaths.

A shift from a criminal justice approach is already favoured by the Scottish Government.

The new report found the UK's position on drugs was "clearly failing" and called for a "radical new approach" in policy, urging the UK Government to consult on decriminalisation to save lives.