THE SNP have labelled Anas Sarwar "shameful" as he said he does not believe Holyrood requires more powers to adequately tackle the drugs death crisis.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, the Scottish Labour leader said he felt existing powers are sufficient enough to allow safe consumption rooms and other measures to happen, stating that the crisis did not need to become a constitutional issue.

It comes in the same week that Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that calls to decriminalise drug possession in Scotland are about starting a “constitutional battle”.

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

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Sarwar’s comments have sparked fury from campaigner Peter Krykant, who said he was “shocked” and demanded Labour “get on board with the evidence rather than next year’s General Election tougher-than-the-Tories rhetoric”. 

Sarwar said: “I think anyone that tells you there is a silver bullet solution to our drugs death crisis is not telling you the truth.

“It is a multi-spoke response that we need and I think that is of course partly around viewing this as a public health emergency rather than a criminal justice emergency, I think that does mean using the powers that the Lord Advocate has already demonstrated around safe consumption rooms, to have a presumption against prosecution, greater funding for rehabilitation services, greater funding for alcohol and drug partnerships, greater funding for mental health.

“I don’t think that requires the devolution of drugs laws and or decriminalisation across the UK.”

What have the SNP said?

Sarwar also said that “the one fact the SNP cannot escape from is we have the exact same drugs laws as the rest of the UK but we have three times as many drug deaths”.

He added that Scotland needs “flexibility” but that the Lord Advocate had made it clear “we don’t require the devolution of those powers”.

SNP MSP Jackie Dunbar told Scotland on Sunday: “It’s shameful for Labour to prioritise protecting a broken Westminster system over implementing realistic reforms to our drug policy system.”

Her thoughts were echoed by the party’s health spokesperson Martyn Day who said: “By ruling out devolution, it’s clear the Labour Party can’t be trusted to deliver the powers Scotland needs to build a fairer society.

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“The Scottish Government is taking action to reduce drug deaths but the UK’s drug laws are at odds with Scotland’s public health approach and they are undermining progress.

“This is not a time for timidity. It’s deeply disappointing Anas Sarwar is falling into line with the failed Tory policies of the past, rather than working collectively to deliver much-needed change.

“Scottish Government ministers want to work constructively with the UK Government, political parties at Holyrood and stakeholders. I hope all parties will get around the table to ensure Scotland has the full powers needed to tackle this long-standing problem.”

What have campaigners said?

Sarwar (below) said he was aware that his views were at odds with what campaigners have said, including Krykant, who has set up a safe consumption facility in a converted ambulance.

The National: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for an election once the SNP has a new leader (Jane Barlow/PA)

This initiative has been supported by Labour MSP Paul Sweeney.

Sarwar said: “Yes, I’m on a different side from Peter Krykant because I saw a comment from Peter where he said that drugs weren’t dangerous, but the laws were dangerous.

“Actually, drugs are dangerous. Try telling people that have been blighted by drugs that they’re not dangerous or families who have lost loved ones because of drugs that they’re not dangerous, of course drugs are dangerous.”

In response, Krykant said: “Anas must be aware I have lost many loved ones and friends, I have stood over coffins crying and those people, my loved ones my loved ones are from working class communities, areas ravished by poverty that Labour should be standing up for, instead he would rather people with drug dependency issues be pushed into the margins of society and punished.

“I too have overdosed and I am lucky to have survived, fear of criminalisation means people like me use alone, don’t ask for help. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act we can’t set up drug checking, powers are limited for diamorphine treatment and we are having to try and work round laws for overdose prevention sites, in operation for nearly 40 years and now in over 16 countries.

“Anas should leave the comments about drug policy to Paul Sweeney, I’m greatly offended by his comments, let’s be clear, drugs laws make drugs more dangerous, its time Labour got on board with the evidence rather than next year’s general election tougher-than-the-Tories rhetoric.”