CALLS to decriminalise drug possession in Scotland are about starting a “constitutional battle” and not tackling the drugs deaths crisis, Alister Jack has claimed.

The Tory Cabinet Secretary insisted that the Scottish Government should be looking to “take the health solution” to issues of drug addiction – but experts say that is exactly what decriminalisation would do.

The Scottish Government said its UK counterpart had dismissed proposals for decriminalisation “without even the courtesy of giving them proper consideration”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had rejected the idea within hours of it first being proposed by Scottish minister Elena Whitham last Friday.

READ MORE: Scottish Government backs decriminalisation of personal drug use

Speaking to the Scotsman, Jack insisted that a “soft” approach to drugs would not work and said that Whitham’s proposals were actually about the constitution.

While drug policy is reserved to Westminster, policing is devolved.

Jack (below) said: “I think there’s an element of the Scottish Government bringing forward legislation to try and manufacture grievances with the UK Government. I would prefer they focused on the day-to-day governing that devolution was set up to facilitate – health, education, crime, those things, ferry services to the islanders.

“We’ve seen the deposit return scheme, the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve also had this request to devolve more powers over drugs, but the same drug laws exist in the United Kingdom.”

The National: Alister Jack

He went on: “The Scottish Government have already more or less said to the police ‘don’t lift people for possession’, and that hasn’t been the case in England where deaths have been way lower.

“I still think the right approach is to take the health solution, rather than to decriminalise them [drugs]. The Scottish Government has already tried a soft approach and it hasn’t helped the statistics anyway. It feels to me like a constitutional battle. They have the same tools that exist in the other administrations, I just think they need to start using the tools.”

Despite the UK Government having rapidly rejected the Scottish proposals for drug reform, Jack insisted that the two administrations should work together to tackle the issue.

In response, the Scottish Government said that the Tory MP was “mistaken” and “would do well to talk with the Scottish Government, rather than high-handedly vetoing measures supported by MSPs across different parties”.

A spokesperson went on: “On drugs policy, which he mentions, the UK Government rejected what are well-evidenced proposals – that are mainstream internationally – without even the courtesy of giving them proper consideration.

“An underlying problem is that the UK’s post-Brexit arrangements, particularly the Internal Market Act, threaten to impose uniformity and integration, when the whole point of devolution is to enable difference and diversity.

“[Former Scottish secretary] David Mundell used to talk about Holyrood being ‘one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world’, yet Mr Jack can now prevent MSPs even including glass in a recycling scheme.”

The Scottish Tories also attacked proposals for decriminalisation of drug possession, falsely and repeatedly claiming that the Government was looking to “legalise heroin and crack”.

READ MORE: Scots Tories 'inflaming drugs debate with false information', top campaigner says

Drug campaigner Peter Krykant accused politicians such as Douglas Ross and Murdo Fraser of using the “false information” to inflame the debate.

Decriminalisation does not make drug possession legal, but instead removes the tendency to punish with criminal sanctions. Instead, civil actions such as rehabilitation or placing addicts on a register may be used.

According to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation: "In 2001, Portugal decriminalised the personal possession of all drugs as part of a wider re-orientation of policy towards a health-led approach.

"Possessing drugs for personal use is instead treated as an administrative offence, meaning it is no longer punishable by imprisonment and does not result in a criminal record and associated stigma."