SCOTLAND’S ambitions to create a safe consumption room for drug users have inched closer to realisation after the Government’s top lawyer gave the plans the green light.

In a statement, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain said it would “not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users” possessing drugs within a consumption room were one to be created.

While stressing she was speaking only in principle and that she had not “been asked to sign-off or approve any facility” as yet, it is likely Bain will do so given the Scottish Government’s longstanding ambitions of piloting a consumption room.

Responding to the announcement, the Scottish Government said proposals to establish a safe consumption room in Glasgow would move ahead. 

Her statement is likely to trigger a constitutional row between the Scottish Government and the Home Office which controls UK-wide drug laws and remains steadfastly opposed to consumption rooms, repeatedly insisting there is no safe way to take illegal drugs.

It is understood the department considers the operation of a drug consumption facility inherently criminal and that Police Scotland remains obliged to enforce UK-wide drug laws. 

Bain said: "On the basis of the information I have been provided, I would be prepared to publish a prosecution policy that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users for simple possession offences committed within a pilot safer drugs consumption facility. 

“I have not been asked to sign-off or approve any facility and it would not be appropriate for me to do so.

"However, prosecution policy is for me alone to set and this policy, and the consequences which flow from it, have been considered deeply and thoroughly. 

“The requested statement will not extend to any criminal offences other than possession of controlled substances, contrary to section 5(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

"It does not amount to an exclusion zone whereby a range of criminality is tolerated. 

“Police Scotland have operational independence and it has been of the utmost importance to me to ensure that Police Scotland retain the ability to effectively police the facility and ensure that the wider community, those operating the site and those using the facility can be kept safe.” 

Her announcement has been welcomed by Scottish Labour, the LibDems and the Greens while the Scottish Tories have not voiced objections to the plans

The Scottish Tories' position on the issue puts them at odds with the Home Office

Elena Whitham, the Scottish Government's Drugs and Alcohol Minister, said: "I welcome the position the Lord Advocate has taken.

“Glasgow authorities may now progress their proposal to set up a facility which can operate within the existing legal framework.

"While the service would still be limited to some extent, due to the reserved Misuse of Drugs Act, we are confident it would save lives.

“This is not a silver bullet. But we know from evidence from more than 100 facilities worldwide that Safer Drug Consumption Facilities work.

"It is now time to see this approach piloted in Scotland.

“It’s vital this pilot has the full confidence of the general public as well as those who use the facility, and the leadership of Glasgow and Police Scotland will help ensure it is introduced as quickly as possible.

“Through our £250 million National Mission, we are doing everything within our powers to tackle drug deaths in Scotland. However, the number of deaths is still too high and we must use every means at our disposal as we face future challenges, including the increasing threat from synthetic opioids.”

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said: “Police Scotland is committed to working in partnership to reduce the harm associated with problematic substance use and addiction.

“Our approach to any initiative aimed at tackling these harms will be to establish how best policing can support it within the confines of the law.

“It is important to note that existing legislation will not be changing and, while we may take an overall supportive policing approach, police officers will still be bound by their legal duty to uphold the law and will not be able to simply ignore acts of criminality which they see occurring.” 

Susanne Millar, chief officer for Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We welcome the position from the Lord Advocate and the positive response on plans for a Safer Drug Consumption Facility to operate in Glasgow. 

"A large body of evidence already exists from around the world which demonstrates that Safer Drug Consumption Facilities can save lives, as well as reducing the spread of blood-borne viruses and cutting levels of publically discarded injecting equipment.”

The Home Office was approached for comment.