THE decriminalisation of all personal possession of drugs in Scotland would “save lives”, a Dundee MP has said.

On Friday, the Scottish Government published radical drug reform proposals, but the plans were knocked back by Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak within an hour of the announcement.

Drugs Minister Elena Whitham announced a shift in the government’s position on personal use, a framework for the creation of drug consumption rooms and the consideration of implementing the regulated supply of drugs.

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The policy paper said decriminalisation would free “individuals from the fear of accessing treatment and support, reducing drug-related harms and, ultimately, improving lives”.

However, drug laws remain reserved to Westminster, and the plans were quickly dismissed by Number 10.

On Sunday, Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie told the BBC Sunday Show that the proposals would treat drug use as a “health matter, rather than a criminal justice matter”.

Dundee has the highest number of drug-related deaths in any council area, with an average of 45.2 deaths per 100,000 people every year between 2018 and 2022. This is more than twice the Scottish average and higher than every other local authority area.

The National:

In 2021, a total of 52 drug-related deaths were recorded in the Dundee area, with opiates and opioids such as heroin and methadone implicated in 48 of the 52 deaths. So called “street benzos” - benzodiazepine drugs of varying strength - were implicated in 40 deaths.

Asked what difference decriminalisation would make to his constituents, Hosie said that the threat of a conviction is “no longer a deterrent” to people misusing drugs and that those with a criminal record find it much harder to secure a job.

“The judgement from the Scottish Government in terms of the drug law reform proposals is if we treat this as a health matter, if we approach it from the standpoint of harm reduction, rather than the criminal justice matter, the evidence would appear to be from around the world that this is the right thing to do,” Hosie told the broadcaster.

“And interestingly, I went back to an old Scottish Affairs Select Committee Report from 2019, and they investigated this matter fully, and they concluded exactly the same thing.

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“So there seems to be a weight of evidence to say this is a better approach to tackling a big problem, keeps people in work, doesn't give them a criminal record, treats it as a health rather than a criminal justice matter.

“Frankly, I think we should use all of the tools of both the Scottish and UK Government's disposal to tackle what is without question a serious problem.”

The plans prompted opposition politicians to claim that the SNP wanted to “flood communities with drugs” and that it signalled taking drugs were ok, journalist Fiona Stalker put to Hosie, asking what he had to say to critics.

“Well, I think it would bring down drugs deaths, precisely because it will be treating drug misuse as a health matter rather than a criminal justice matter,” he replied.

The National: The drugs minister announced the change in policy last weekThe drugs minister announced the change in policy last week (Image: PA)

“If somebody needed help or attention, they would have no difficulty in simply going and seeking it, rather than being afraid that they might end up with a criminal record for doing so.

“On balance, and this has to be a judgement, of course it does, there are people on both sides of this argument.

“I think on balance and looking at all the evidence that I've seen, it's been presented over many years now, this would appear to be the right approach.

“And yes, I think it would very much save lives.”

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In the final paragraph of the Scottish Government paper, Whitham says that while “independence or further devolution” would allow the policies to be implemented, “these changes are not dependent on constitutional changes”.

She added: “We stand ready to engage with the UK Government on meaningful drug law reform to improve the lives of people who use drugs, their families and our communities.”

But within an hour of the end of the press conference, the PM’s official spokesman said: “Whilst I haven’t seen those reports, I think I’m confident enough to say that there are no plans to alter our tough stance on drugs.”

A source close to Home Secretary Suella Braverman branded the proposals “irresponsible” and said they would do “untold damage to our neighbourhoods”.

Labour shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves also ruled out the shift in drugs policy, who told journalists during a visit to Scotland that she was “stunned” by the proposals.