GORDON Brown previously supported Holyrood being given more power over drugs policy, unearthed comments have revealed.

It comes after the Scottish Government announced a shift in its position on personal drug use, a framework to introduce drug consumption rooms and the consideration of a regulated supply of drugs.

However, the UK Government, within an hour of the Scottish Government’s press conference, ruled out support.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, on a visit to Scotland when the announcement was made, ruled it out and said she didn’t think it was a “good” policy.

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Labour leader Keir Starmer has previously ruled out support for decriminalisation, amid reports that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was planning to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis.

The SNP said the previous comments from Brown showed Labour are “all over the place” when it comes to drug policy, while the Scottish Greens said it showed another shift away from progressive policies by the party.

Labour denied that there had been any change in their policy on drugs.

What did Gordon Brown previously say?

Brown, who served as UK Labour prime minister between 2007 and 2010, made the comments regarding the devolution of further powers to Holyrood relating to drugs at an event hosted by the think tank he founded.

At an Our Scottish Future event in January 2022, Brown said: "I'm in favour of making the powers available to the Scottish Parliament to deal with these issues."

Brown also hit out at both the SNP and Tories, accusing them of playing a “blame game” about who was responsible for the issue of Scotland’s drugs deaths.

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"Whatever happens you have got to cooperate on drugs, because the drugs come from all sorts of parts of the world where you need police forces to work together to control them,” Brown said at the event.

“You need cooperation.

"We have got human lives at stake, how awful it is to have a blame game when you should be dealing with the problem."

The war on drugs has “failed”

Both the SNP and Scottish Greens have criticised the shift in policy position under Labour when it comes to devolving drugs powers to Scotland, insisting that the war on drugs has “failed”.

Martyn Day, the SNP’s health spokesperson, said that the unearthed comments show Labour are “all over the place” when it comes to drug policy commitments.

"Despite their former leader agreeing with the SNP and backing the idea for drug policy to be devolved, Sir Keir Starmer remains committed to his outdated strategy.”

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Day added that the war on drugs is not working, which is why the Scottish Government proposed “realistic reforms”.

"This would help create a society where problematic drug use is treated as a health matter - not a criminal one,” he added.

"If the Tories and Labour are not willing to look at the evidence and back the Scottish Government's proposal, it is vital they devolve drug policy laws to Holyrood so that we can tackle this crisis head on."

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Scottish Greens health spokesperson Gillian Mackay MSP (pictured above) added: “This is the latest move away from progressive policies by Labour.

“Under Keir Starmer the party cares more about Daily Mail headlines than it does Scottish democracy or tackling the issues that impact our lives.”

Mackay insisted the war on drugs has failed “across every metric” and called for new approaches focusing on harm reduction, similar to countries like Portugal.

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“For the first time we have a Scottish Government that acknowledges this and is willing to pursue a major policy shift to make drug addiction a public health issue, not a criminal one,” she added.

“It’s a shame Labour no longer care about the evidence. We need to see more powers around safe consumption facilities and drug testing.

“With these latest comments and back tracking, I don't think we can be confident of any UK Government giving these powers to Scotland.

“Instead they will continue to instinctively throw up road blocks to devolution - criminalising communities, stigmatising addiction, and costing lives.”

What has Keir Starmer said about the decriminalisation of drugs?

While the current Labour leader has not spoken specifically about the Scottish Government’s plans so far, he has previously ruled out drugs decriminalisation in England.

When the Lord Advocate announced that those caught with Class A substances - such as heroin, ecstasy or cocaine - would be given a warning rather than prosecution in September 2021, Starmer said Dorothy Bain’s decision was “probably the right thing to do”.

“There is a world of difference between a decision not to prosecute a particular case and ripping up the drug laws," he said at the time. 

However, in January 2022 when London Mayor Khan planned to end the prosecution of young people caught with cannabis, Starmer said he was not in favour of changing the law to decriminalise drugs.

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“On the drugs legislation, I’ve said a number of times and I will say again: I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation,” Starmer said at the time.

“I’m very clear about that.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Our position hasn’t changed – we have no plans to change drug laws.”