DRUGS: Scottish Government needs a new era of drugs policy radicalism 

By Lucy Ashton

Speaking ahead of the publication of new drugs deaths statistics which are expected to show that Scotland is once again the drugs death capital of Europe, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, pictured right,  has urged the Scottish Government to kickstart a new era of drugs policy radicalism.

The party is urging the Scottish Government to:

  • take radical steps with the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces. 
  • establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.  
  • Divert people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances. 
  • Adopt the principle that individuals and families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol. 

These proposals build on two landmark votes at Parliament won recently by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, first securing support for the principle of decriminalisation and then requesting that the new Lord Advocate immediately get to work on it.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:  “The former SNP Justice Secretary openly admits that his party chose to look away rather than address the scars of Scottish drugs misuse, for fear that it would distract from the pursuit of independence. Nicola Sturgeon chose to cut the budget by 22%. The fallout from those decisions is being felt every day. Ministerial apologies now won’t bring those people back.

“Liberal Democrats have led the way in making the case for an evidence-based approach to drug policy for years.

“We need a new era of drugs policy radicalism to finally turn the corner on drugs misuse and ensure that we are treating people with compassion and health treatment, rather than prosecution.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrat amendment agreed by parliament in June reads as follows:

Minister Angela Constance and Sir Harry Burns.

As an amendment to motion S6M-00400 in the name of Angela Constance (Tackling Drug Related Deaths), insert at end “; notes the recommendation made by Sir Harry Burns to routinely record adverse childhood experiences, and believes that all aspects of recovery and treatment should be trauma-informed; understands that guidance has previously been issued by the Lord Advocate to police officers relating to the use of recorded police warnings in certain cases of minor offending; would support a new Lord Advocate reviewing this guidance and examining how it can be strengthened, in light of the resolution on the Parliament on motion S5M-24396 on 18 March 2021 and the support expressed for working towards diverting people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into treatment, and believes that a parliamentary statement after the summer recess from the new Lord Advocate on the principles and practicalities of diversion would be beneficial in informing public debate and the response of authorities to Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis.


BIG DOPE: A special article by Madeleine Kearns, a Scottish journalist working in the US, on how cannabis is taking over from tobacco as the dab of choice in the US will appear in The Dumbarton Democrat on Tuesday.

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