ANAS Sarwar has refused to back the Scottish Government’s drug decriminalisation bid – despite previously calling for Holyrood to examine “every option” to tackle drug deaths.

Last year the Scottish Labour leader insisted the Government should “learn from what works” to tackle the high number of deaths linked to drug use.

However following Friday’s publication of an evidence-based report calling for drugs to be decriminalised for personal use in Scotland, Sarwar quickly ruled out the possibility of supporting the bid.

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Instead, he accused Holyrood ministers of seeking a constitutional argument with Westminster.

“I don’t instinctively support this proposal,” Sarwar told Capital Scotland. “I think it’s the wrong proposal to confront what is a really serious issue.

“Let’s be really clear about this. We have a drug death crisis here in Scotland. We have three times the number of drug deaths in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK despite us having the same drugs laws across the whole of the United Kingdom. That demonstrates we have a Scotland-specific issue we have to address.

“There are parts that we support, for example safe consumption rooms in specific circumstances. I think it’s a policy we should support. But that in itself is not a holistic drugs policy.”

He went on: “What I hope the Scottish Government is not doing – but I fear they are doing – is as usual looking at a problem Scots face and looking for a constitutional fight they can pick, rather than confronting the issue head on.”

During a visit to Scotland Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also ruled out the policy, all but ending the chances it will be implemented by the current or future UK governments.

“The short answer is no,” she told journalists during a visit to Scotland. “I don’t think this sounds like a good policy.

The National: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves

“I find it quite stunning that this would be a priority for the Scottish Government when we’re here today talking about the Tory mortgage bombshell and what we would do to address that.

“We’re here meeting people training to do jobs in the industries of the future.

“We’ve got more than 700,000 people in Scotland on NHS waiting lists – pick an issue.”

At the same time, left-wing Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba backed the proposals.

Describing the drug death situation as a “public health emergency”, she stressed the need for a non-criminalisation approach.

“The Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy is right to prioritise treatment and support over criminalisation and exclusion,” the North East Scotland MSP (below) said.

The National: Mercedes Villalba

READ MORE: Scottish, UK, and London Labour fight civil war over drugs policy

Other Labour MSPs have previously called for a similar approach, with Monica Lennon warning Keir Starmer that the war on drugs had “failed” after the party indicated it wouldn’t be changing drug laws.

“Unless our laws, policies and budgets are rooted in public health and smart justice, more people will die, more communities will suffer and more public pounds will be wasted,” she said last year.

The Scottish Government’s latest decriminalisation report comes after the Lord Advocate said in 2021 that those found in possession of Class A substances could be given a warning rather than instant prosecution.

At the time, Scottish Labour’s drugs spokesperson supported the move.

Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson has already indicated that the UK Government will not support changing reserved drugs laws to make the policy possible.