The National:

YESTERDAY the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC took what I believe is the biggest step forward in drug policy reform in Scotland since the 50-year-old failed Misuse of Drugs Act became law.

Continued attempts to punish rather than support people who are often traumatized shows up in many negative results, most noticeable of these being the tragic toll of drug deaths in Scotland, seven consecutive years deaths have increased and Scotland has recorded the highest drug deaths in Europe.

More ways that are not as often seen is the impact on families, the pain and suffering of incarceration of loved ones who have a health issue, the cries of their need for support. The impact on society is that taxpayers continue to pay for a failed revolving door system of prison, dependency, prison and punishment.

As the senior law officer announced yesterday, Police Scotland having additional powers to divert from prosecution for drug possession, as delivered already in the West Midlands area by Cranstoun will allow for a couple of key approaches that will have a dramatic impact.

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Firstly, we can divert people who are not problematic drug users into education programs, this stops people from getting a criminal record which can create more problems for them than the drug itself and also free up time that drug treatment services have to spend working with people who may not need longer term interventions. Currently, courts and police often have no alternative but to refer to the treatment providers.

Secondly, it offers the chance to engage and support people who have the need for support, it allows for positive interactions within the community, a chance to engage with families and build a structure to enable people to move from illicit drugs controlled by criminal gangs onto a safe supply, monitored and regulated medication thus breaking the hold that gangs have on individuals and disrupting the profits in the process.

When I operated the first UK safer consumption facility outside a legal framework in Glasgow allowing people to inject drugs in a decommissioned ambulance this was always our call; a non-prosecution stance from the Lord Advocate to allow for the service to operate.

Now that this is in place I expect overdose prevention sites to open quickly and for the Scottish Government to waste no time in starting one in Glasgow and other major cities.

The National:

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As proved these are not only accepted by most sections of society but businesses and members of the public are supportive of this health-led response which sees less discarded equipment on our streets, more people engaging with treatment and therefore less crime and anti-social behaviour and most importantly fewer people dying which must be our key driving force, we can no longer accept the title of the country that tops the charts for preventable drug deaths. Police Scotland will now have the official powers to divert public injecting drug users into a safer, compassionate area, an area that offers hope and says we care, an area that says you matter and we want you to live, an area which benefits all of society.

The next step forward is building a culture change within Police Scotland. As within any organisation when the direction of how you carry out daily activities changes this will take time and education throughout the Police who must look to areas where this system is already operating. I am sure ACC Gary Ritchie will look to pull on this experience as we have often heard from Police Scotland that they are working with a more compassionate and harm reduction approach and now they truly have the powers to carry out that work effectively.

READ MORE: 'We can't arrest our way out of a drugs death crisis', minister says

Finally, I am dumbfounded by the Scottish Tories opposition to this measure to reduce deaths and poor outcomes by enforced punishment of a health issue. It says so much about their own party when high ranking members of the UK Government have admitted to Class A drug use. Where would they be now had they been caught with small amounts in their possession? Not leading the country due to the criminal sanctions their own party in Scotland now want to enforce.

Seemingly being allies to people with drug dependency by advocating for more rehab access is showing up as a backhanded attempt to play political football with peoples' lives by also supporting the criminalisation of the same people who need a range of support and not punishment, if going to prison worked our prisons would not be filled with people who use drugs, however that is politics, Stephen Kerr MSP (below) the Tory chief whip looked me in the eye and declared his support for a pilot safe consumption site while at the count in his election campaign in May. Since the election, he has been silent on the matter as it does not fit his party leader's stance on the moralistic view of drug use.

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Scotland can now lead the way, we can reduce this terrible drug death count but there is more work to be done, we must build a third sector that is robust, intervenes appropriately, able to run safe consumption sites, with more accessible and less NHS risk-averse, giving people enough safe supply medication to stop the need for illicit use on top, if we do this and do this quickly then many lives will be saved and so much suffering avoided.

This is down to the SNP Scottish Government, not dependent on any further changes, alcohol and drug partnerships, third sector and current front line providers must all be held to account, work must be based on positive outcomes and not driven by who can deliver the cheapest contract when work comes up for the tendering process, lets act now, there is no time to waste.