KEIR Starmer has been rebuked by Scotland's leading drug reform campaigner after making a "demeaning" joke about drug use.

The Labour leader was labelled a "hypocrite" by Peter Krykant after he refused to give a yes or no answer on whether he has tried drugs before, instead saying he had a "good time" when he was younger.

Starmer appeared on the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast where he was answering questions from pupils at St George’s School, a boarding school in England.

One pupil asked the politician to clarify whether he had ever taken drugs, pointing to an interview with Piers Morgan where Starmer failed to answer the same question 14 times.

The class laughed as Starmer replied, “I had a good time when I was younger,” before the subject was quickly changed.

That echoed a similar response given to Morgan in which he repeatedly said he "had a good time at university" when asked if he'd tried drugs.

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The comments from the Labour chief, who has said he supports current UK drugs laws which criminalise users, were labelled “demeaning” by Kyrkant, who has campaigned for drugs to be treated as a public health issue.

Speaking from the LX Addictions Conference in Portugal where is giving a speech, the activist said it was hypocritical for politicians to joke about past illegal drug use while supporting the current criminalisation of drugs.

He told The National: “The way it was spoken about was quite jovial, the whole ‘I had fun with it’, which frustrates me because you’ve got politicians at high levels in the UK Government, and potentially the next prime minister, saying they’ve experimented with drugs but saying they still want to criminalise young people now who are doing the same thing that they had done.

“Keir Starmer wouldn’t have the job he has now, and his previous job as a prosecutor, if he had got caught with a small possession of drugs under the current laws.

“The same laws that he wants to enforce now on young people could potentially ruin the rest of their lives.

“It’s hypocritical and it’s demeaning and inappropriate to the thousands of people who are losing their lives and their families every year."

The National: Peter Krykant said Keir Starmer's hard-line stance on drugs is disappointing Peter Krykant said Keir Starmer's hard-line stance on drugs is disappointing

Starmer has taken a more hard-line approach to drug policy than his counterpart north of the Border.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has previously said that government must “look at every option” to fight the drugs crisis in Scotland, and called for policy to “learn from what works”.

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Paul Sweeney has been a leading campaigner for the introduction of safe drug consumption rooms, a place where people with addiction issues are allowed to consume drugs without fear of prosecution.

The scheme has shown success in reducing overdoses in countries where it has been tested.

On Thursday, Sweeney won the Herald’s Community MSP of The Year award, which he devoted to Krykant for his work on overdose prevention centres.

Senior figures in the UK Labour Party have warned over implementing more liberal policies on drugs, arguing it would go down like a "cold bucket of sick" with voters.

Starmer has previously said he does not support decriminalisation.

But Krykant said these policies are part of the problem: “On average 16 people are dying a day to a preventable overdose in the UK and we have Keir Starmer laughing about his own drug use and saying the current laws are about right.

“It’s really terrible he is joking like that while having that hard-line stance which is leading to so many people dying.

The National: Scotland has the highest rate of drug deaths in the UKScotland has the highest rate of drug deaths in the UK (Image: PA)

“It’s a real shame that Keir Starmer is so ingrained in his thinking around drug policy.

“His comments recently about drug policy in the UK being just about is right when we have, in Scotland, one of the highest death rates per head of population in the world, and the UK as a whole is getting worse, the whole of the UK is suffering from outdated drug laws.

“I would say to Keir Starmer to follow the evidence. The public is now becoming much more aware of the fact that current drug laws are not working.

“They’re actually costing the taxpayer money because it’s costing more money to send someone to prison connected to their drug use than it would to house them and give them medication.”

The campaigner said the criminalisation of drugs disproportionately affects working-class people – the group he said Labour are supposed to support.

“It’s not just Keir Starmer, it’s a number of his frontbenchers,” he said. “And as a drugs policy activist it’s so disappointing because if you look at Scottish Labour on drugs, they're very forward-thinking, they're reactive to public opinion - and public opinion is changing.

“People can see the current policies aren’t working. So I’m disappointed but not surprised given [Starmer's] previous comments.”

The National: Gillian Mackay labelled Keir Starmer a hypocrite Gillian Mackay labelled Keir Starmer a hypocrite

The Scottish Greens said Labour's commitment to the war on drugs is "devastating communities".

The party's health spokesperson, Gillian Mackay MSP, told The National: "What many will find galling is the hypocrisy of Keir Starmer.

"While he laughs about his own drug use, he and Labour remain fully committed to a war on drugs that devastates communities up and down the country; criminalising, imprisoning and leading far too often to preventable deaths.

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"It's one rule for him and another for everyone else, regardless of the consequences.

"His outdated views are already holding Scotland back as we try to tackle drug-related deaths.

"The evidence is clear that an essential part of changing drug outcomes is moving away from criminalisation and towards a harm reduction approach that focuses on restoring people's dignity and treating their addiction."

The Labour Party were approached for comment.