MSPs have called for an update on the progress of plans to create safe drug consumption rooms in Scotland.

Audrey Nicoll, the convener of Holyrood’s criminal justice committee, has written to the Crown Agent John Logue, asking for an update on the Crown Office’s plans to draw up plans to circumvent UK drug laws and create a safe drug consumption room.

The Crown Office is currently working on making a case to the Lord Advocate which would effectively allow police not to prosecute those using drug consumption rooms. 

It will require them to make the case that there is a public interest argument for not pursuing prosecutions against users at the facilities. 

Nicoll quoted evidence given to a joint committee meeting by drugs policy minister Angela Constance, who told MSPs the Scottish Government had been working on revised proposals for drug consumption facilities with the help of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, the Crown Office and Police Scotland.

At the meeting in November, the minister said the Crown Office would soon be able to give advice to the Lord Advocate, who is effectively the Government’s lawyer, on whether there is a public interest case in not prosecuting users within drug consumption rooms.

READ MORE: 'You're just ranting': Mick Lynch takes down Richard Madeley in fiery interview

Constance said: “We have worked very hard with our partners, including Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, the Crown Office, Police Scotland and others to develop a service specification proposition, which has been submitted to the Crown Office.

“More specifically, the Crown Office has been gathering further information, as I understand, from Police Scotland, and it is nearing the point at which it can give advice to the Lord Advocate. You will appreciate that I cannot speak on behalf of the Crown Office or our independent Lord Advocate.”

Nicoll, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South, asked when an update would be given on the pilot for a drug consumption room and when a decision from the Lord Advocate could be expected.

UK drug laws currently prevent the creation of safe drug consumption facilities because they would risk the prosecution of those using the centres.

In countries where drug consumption facilities are used, they have been shown to cut the rate of drug-related deaths and Scottish campaigners and politicians see them as being part of the solution to Scotland’s drug deaths crisis.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “Work is continuing in relation to a request for the Lord Advocate to consider making a focused statement of prosecution policy in relation to the proposed site.

“The letter from the convener will be responded to.”

It comes as new figures released on Tuesday showed drug deaths were continuing to fall. 

In the third quarter of this year – between July and September – 235 suspected drug deaths were recorded in Scotland, a drop of 15% from the previous quarter, 18% down on the same quarter of last year, and the lowest quarterly figure since the first quarter of 2017.

So far this year, the figures show, 797 suspected drug deaths have been logged by police – 21% fewer than the same period last year.

Some 65% of the deaths involved people aged 35 to 54, while 43 were under 25.

The greater Glasgow police division recorded the most suspected deaths at 148, followed by Edinburgh at 92 and Lanarkshire with 88.

Constance updated MSPs later in the day on improvements in medication assisted treatment (Mat) and its associated workforce.

She said she had heard personally from those “delivering lifesaving work in this often challenging environment”.

The Scottish Government is providing more than £10m to improve Mat standards, most of which will go towards recruiting 100 extra staff.

Labour’s Claire Baker said it is likely that by the end of this year there will have been more than 3500 drugs deaths since the Scottish Government declared a public health emergency.

Constance responded, saying “one death is one too many”.

The most recent statistics showed the lowest number of suspected drugs deaths in a single calendar quarter since January to March 2007, she said.

The minister noted that the figures for suspected drugs deaths are different to those for confirmed drugs deaths.