TRADE unions have agreed to urge Labour to include a commitment to devolve drug powers to Scotland in their next General Election manifesto.

At the STUC annual convention, delegates were presented with a motion which called for the Scottish Government to redouble efforts to have powers of drugs policy devolved to Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament backed the policy of safe consumption rooms for drug users and it was in the SNP’s 2021 manifesto, but Westminster, in particular the Home Office, have refused to allow the policy to go ahead.

In the past four years, 5120 people in Scotland have lost their lives due to drug use, with the consensus supporting taking a public health approach to the issue, rather than further criminalisation.

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Maurice Hickey, of the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA), told delegates that the staggering numbers have been “normalised” but “people are still dying”.

Speaking to the audience in Caird Hall, Dundee, the PDA representative said: “Everyone supports the policies and treatments and the SNP were mandated before the last election.

“It was debated on it in Parliament, Parliament voted for change and asked Westminster to devolve the power to act to do something about drug deaths.

“And there's a block to progress, nothing happened.

The National: Maurice Hickey, of the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA), Maurice Hicke of the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) Maurice Hickey, of the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA), Maurice Hicke of the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) (Image: STUC)

“But where is the block? Everyone sees it as a good idea.”

The Home Office, Hickey added, was to blame, due to powers being reserved under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“So no matter what we say or what we think, we can talk forever, but until they act, we can only talk. The Home Office says no,” he said.

“They say no to any inch. Well, the next opportunity for change comes at the next general election when Labour are elected and that will be next year. That's the point of this motion.

“That has to be in their manifesto, the TUC and the greater movement has to bring pressure on them to put it in the manifesto so they can wriggle out of it when they come into power and the tabloid start talking about them being soft on drugs, and the focus groups say ‘nobody wants it’. Everybody wants it! They let themselves be influenced by these few people.”

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Claire Robertson, Edinburgh Trade Union Council, seconded the motion, adding that safe drug consumption facilities would not only “save money, but save lives”.

“The Scottish Government controlling justice and health supports the introduction of these facilities, but a previous attempt to set up [safe consumption] rooms in Glasgow was blocked by the UK Government, which controls the drug policy,” Robertson explained.

“So we're asking the STUC to press the Scottish Government to ensure that drug policies are devolved from Westminster so that we can show that a public health approach is more successful and our preference for dealing with this issue.

“Those who have the power to change the law continue to focus on criminalising those using drugs rather than seeing them part of a public health scandal and disaster for many families affected.”

The motion, which passed, called on trade unions to work with the Scottish Government to “redouble efforts to secure responsibility for drug policy from Westminster”, as well as ask an “incoming Labour government” to devolve the relevant drug policy.