SCOTLAND’S Minister for Drugs Policy has said a visit to a New York safe drug consumption room has shown her first-hand how well the service works.

Angela Constance visited the American state back in August while on holiday and said it was clear such services are effective.

The Scottish Government has been at loggerheads with Westminster to introduce safe consumption rooms.

While health is devolved to Scotland, drug laws are not and Westminster has refused to back calls from opposition parties and experts to introduce safe consumption rooms to help tackle Scotland’s drugs crisis, which is the worst in the UK.

The service would allow people to safely consume certain drugs and has been shown to lower drug overdoses in several countries where it has been introduced.

But The Scottish Conservatives have labelled the move as “de facto decriminalisation”.

Constance said the OnPoint NYC East Harlem Overdose Prevention Centre in New York had prevented 57 overdoses in the first three weeks of opening.

She told The National: “I had the opportunity over the summer to visit a safe drug consumption facility in New York. I was on holiday with my sister.

“While I was there, I took the opportunity to go and visit a service in East Harlem.

“Because they don’t exist in the UK it was an opportunity to see one in operation and to actually speak to the service users who attended the safe drug consumption facility.

“They were very well supported and linked with other health services as well.

“And that’s the thing about harm reduction it helps to make people safer but it also brings them in with other services and support – and it works.”

The minister said she has an “unwavering commitment to introduce safer drug consumption facilities” saying she would leave “no stone unturned” in seeking to deliver them.

“There is an easy way to do that,” she said, “and that would be for the UK Government to reform the Misuse of Drugs Act. If they’re not prepared to reform the act themselves then devolve it to us.”

Constance said she would encourage all UK Government ministers to “have the courage to follow the evidence”, adding that “we know from international evidence that measures such as safe drug consumption facilities at the end of the day save life. I’m not interested in ideology, or political posturing – I’m interested in what will work to save lives, and I think the UK Government should be as well.”

READ MORE: The Spectator under fire for 'vile' migrant cartoon following Dover terrorist attack

Asked how confident she is that Scotland will introduce safe consumption rooms, and when the public can expect to see them, Constance said: “That’s difficult because I have kept my end of the bargain to develop a proposition to leave no stone unturned.”

She said it is now up to the Crown Office and Lord Advocate to determine whether the Scottish Government has the power to introduce safe consumption rooms without the Westminster government’s permission.

Constance said she is yet to meet with UK Minister for Policing and Crime Chris Philp, who took over from Jeremy Quin in late October. Philp, who was appointed by Liz Truss, had barely been in the role two months when Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle saw him appointed Paymaster General instead.

The SNP MSP said she did have a meeting arranged with Quin but it was scrapped following his move.

Despite having seen four UK minister for policing and crime during her tenure, Constance said Westminster has continued its criminal justice approach, rather than health approach.

She said: “The Scottish Government considers drug and alcohol problems a health condition and drug deaths a public health emergency that needs a public health response. The UK Government has a drugs policy very much located in a criminal justice ministerial portfolio.”

Constance said while the Scottish Government remained focused on battling the drugs crisis as a national health issue it is “hindered” by the UK Government’s Misuse of Drugs Act.

She continued: “We do not want to see the unnecessary criminalisation of people who are vulnerable, or who have health problems. The UK Government would appear to me continue to see tackling the harms caused by drugs is solely a criminal justice pursuit.”

The National: Angela Constance at the Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP)Angela Constance at the Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP)

The Almond Valley MSP said she is seeking urgent clarification from the UK Government on how proposals for tougher measures against drug use may impact Scotland.

Constance, who said Suella Braverman was a “worry” as Home Secretary, urged the UK Government to “follow the evidence” of their own advisory body, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, on the classification of drugs.

It comes after Braverman suggested cannabis could be made a Class A drug which would group it alongside the likes of heroin and cocaine.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms and anyone running them would be committing a range of offences including possession of a controlled drug and being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug.

“The rate of drug deaths in Scotland is deeply concerning, the Scottish government is responsible for tackling drug misuse in areas where responsibility is devolved and we expect these challenges to be tackled head-on.”