WESTMINSTER’S draconian anti-drug laws are “dragging down” Scotland’s efforts to tackle addiction and “massively” increasing fatalities, said a specialist documentary filmmaker.

Decriminalisation is the key ­remedy to the shamefully high rates of drug deaths in the UK, according to director Dominic Streeter, who has said the Home Office’s approach was costing lives.

While Scotland’s drug death rate is nearly five times that of England, no part of the UK should be “proud” of its record on fatalities linked to ­substance abuse, the filmmaker said, because Britain outpaced all other European countries with its ­“regressive” drug policies.

Streeter, 40, who lives in London, said Scottish independence would get a “big tick” in its favour if it offered the chance to what he characterised as the “anarchy” allowed by UK drug laws.

READ MORE: Angela Constance: A trip to New York showed me how well drug consumption rooms work

And he backed the Scottish ­Government’s aims of ­introducing safe drug consumption rooms, which give people access to clean, ­supervised places in which to take drugs but which have been blocked by the UK Government.

Speaking with the Sunday ­National after finishing the filming of his new documentary about Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis, Streeter echoed points made by leading experts who say ­stigma and a lack of access to safe places to take drugs, as well as the prevalence of dangerous street ­narcotics like benzodiazepines (AKA benzos) and counterfeit Valium, have led to Scotland’s exceptionally high drug death rate.

Streeter’s film, due to be ­released next spring, is presented by a ­17-year-old girl Emily who he said was able to find Class A drugs on ­Instagram in a matter of seconds – but was unable to buy booze in a pub.

The scene highlights the difference between a regulated drug market, as exists for alcohol, and the “wild west” market of illegal drugs, the ­director said.

He added: “[Drug deaths] are very high in England, as well – they’re ­unacceptably high in both England and Scotland, is the truth.

“Scotland has the highest drug death rate in Europe and Scotland’s drug deaths are way higher than ­England’s and England’s are way higher than the rest of Europe.

“None of us has got anything to be proud about.

“I do feel that, without ­politicising the issue too much, the regressive drug policy of Westminster is ­dragging down every citizen of the UK south of the Border and north of the Border, because we are not following the very clear evidence that would save lives.”

World-leading research on ­decriminalisation from the UK was being used abroad by governments to ­liberalise their drug laws and save lives, Streeter said, while being ­ignored in the UK.

Scotland’s drug death rate is nearly five times that of England and Wales and is the highest rate recorded in ­Europe by far.

Streeter said the key way to bring down drug deaths – both in ­Scotland and the rest of the UK – was to ­legalise and regulate the market for drugs while also providing access to safe places for people to take drugs.

Tackling stigma is also vital to bringing down the mortality rate of drug users, Streeter said, in line with the recommendations of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, which published its final report earlier this year.

Asked if social ­embarrassment was really so strong a factor in ­people choosing not to seek life or death help, Streeter replied: “What I’ve learned from the filming we’ve done is that on average, it takes 18 years going through addiction [for people] to put their hand up for help – which is insane, that’s just such a long ­period of time.

“No other health issue is ­illegal. Even ones that are sort of ­self-inflicted, it’s not illegal to be to be fat, it’s not illegal to have lung cancer or something.

“So, the fact that it’s a criminal ­offence is a barrier.

“If you injure yourself in a robbery, you might not go to A&E because the old bill might turn up as well as the ambulance.”

Streeter has spent half a decade covering drug policy in countries ­including Canada, ­before turning his attention on the UK and Scotland in particular.

His last documentary 10 Dollar Death Trip was released on Netflix in 2020 and focused on the ­fentanyl crisis engulfing North America. ­Fentanyl is a super-strength synthetic prescription opiate, which is at the centre of a public health emergency.

In 2021, it was the single most deadly drug in the US, accounting for 71,238 deaths.

So far, it has not broken the UK market, where heroin addicts are more likely to turn to benzos and street Valium as a cheaper ­alternative.

Streeter fears the impact fentanyl would have if it ever managed to gain traction in the UK.

Speaking to people in Glasgow and Dundee – where drug deaths are most common in Scotland – there was a huge public appetite for decriminalisation and legalisation, Streeter said – ambitions that are being held back by the Home Office’s intransigence on drug policy.

He added: “Prohibition categ­orically does not work. It creates a litany of chaos and anarchy and it ­increases drug use, it massively ­increases drug deaths and it enables criminal gangs.

“Somebody has to get a grip on drug deaths in Scotland ... I don’t ­really have a strong opinion one way or ­another on the issue of ­independence ... but I completely understand the viewpoint that says if Westminster won’t get a grip of it, then we need to get a grip of it ourselves.

“When we interviewed people in Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness – ­unanimously Scottish people said that they want to see drug use and addiction urgently treated as a health condition.

“Any attempts to do that have ­either been blocked by Westminster or your politicians claim they’ve been blocked by Westminster.

“It’s one of these things that falls between the cracks and everyone points fingers at each other.”

THE Scottish Government has repeatedly expressed both its support for the creation of drug consumption rooms and its frustration at the UK Government’s obstinacy on the subject.

It is now for the Crown Office to find ways to establish them within the limited powers of the Scottish Government.

Streeter said the war on drugs and addiction are topics he “can’t quite put down” though he never intended when he set out to spend so long on the subjects.

“It touches so many other areas of social justice,” he added.

“So what I kind of see around drug policy around the world is ­inequitable and unfair and in some cases racist and so tied to other social issues like poverty and homelessness and ­mental health.

“The experience of covering this subject in so many countries around the world has given us as a team a very clear idea of what works and what doesn’t.

READ MORE: 'This is heaven to me': Former addict on landing dream job at rehabilitation centre

“There is absolutely no ­relationship whatsoever between what the ­evidence says and what the drugs ­policy looks like, especially in the UK.

“That’s frustrating because we’ve got incredibly good drug research, access to drug research, and some of the best researchers here in the world and politicians continually ­ignore them, while other countries like ­Switzerland and Portugal are ­adopting the research borne out of the UK and drastically lowering their rate of drug deaths and drug use.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government has no plans to ­decriminalise harmful drugs.

“Drugs ruin lives and ­devastate communities which is why the ­Government is committed to ­tackling both the supply and demand for drugs, as set out in the 10-year drugs strategy.”