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Devolution of Drugs Policy

Volume 737: debated on Wednesday 13 September 2023

11. What discussions he has held with Cabinet colleagues and the Scottish Government on the devolution of drugs policy to Scotland. (906289)

12. What discussions he has held with Cabinet colleagues and the Scottish Government on the devolution of drugs policy to Scotland. (906290)

Illicit drugs destroy lives and devastate communities. The United Kingdom Government’s 10-year drug strategy sets out ambitious plans, backed by a record £3 billion over three years, to tackle the supply of illicit drugs and build a world-class system of treatment and recovery. This is a UK-wide strategy, and there are no plans to devolve drugs policy to the Scottish Government.

The Lord Advocate has announced that she is not going to prosecute drug users for simple possession offences committed within a pilot safer drugs consumption facility. Both the Home Affairs Committee of this House and the Scottish Affairs Committee have recommended that the UK Government support such a pilot in Glasgow by creating a legislative pathway under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that would enable such a facility to operate, or by devolving the power to the Scottish Government. Both cross-party Committees of this House are very clear that the evidence shows that those measures could be lifesaving, so when will the Secretary of State act to save lives in Scotland by persuading his Government to drop their intransigence on this issue?

It was disappointing that the Scottish Government were not prepared to work with the UK Government on Project ADDER. That offer was made with supporting funding. The E in ADDER is for “enforcement”. I believe the police and the Procurator Fiscal Service should be enforcing the laws in Scotland, not decriminalising drugs, because enforcement helps to drive people to health solutions.

The Minister did not answer the question, so I will try again. Scotland needs a caring, compassionate, human rights-informed drugs policy with public health and the reduction of harm as its principles, and the Scottish Government are ready and willing to work with the UK Government to put that progressive policy into practice. Scottish Tory MSP Miles Briggs said on “Good Morning Scotland” yesterday that he hoped the UK Government would not move to block this lifesaving measure. Despite the Minister’s Cabinet colleagues continuing to denounce its effectiveness, what recent discussions has he had with the Scottish Government on advancing this pilot scheme?

Drug consumption rooms are not the easy solution hon. Members may think they are. There is no safe way to take illegal drugs. Drugs devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities. The UK Government believe that the police and the Procurator Fiscal Service should fully enforce the law. However, I say to the hon. Lady that if the Scottish Government and the Lord Advocate decide to proceed with a pilot on DCRs, the UK Government will not intervene.

The Secretary of state will fully realise the challenge it would present for Border Force if we had differing rules on what drugs were lawful and not lawful across the United Kingdom. Therefore, will he assure me that he will not look to devolve drugs policy, and will instead get the Scottish Government to focus on their own responsibilities?

Labour Members always seem to cheer me at this moment in Scottish questions. They are very generous.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Drug deaths in Scotland are three times higher than the UK average, despite the laws being the same across the UK. I do not believe drug consumption rooms are the panacea to those problems, but we absolutely must have drugs laws that work across the whole United Kingdom because it is a UK-wide problem.

I think we should be clear: the Lord Advocate’s statement on Monday is a game changer. It removes one of the major obstacles to a pilot drug consumption facility, which is designed to prevent overdoses. The Secretary of State has been equivocal in his responses so far, so let me give him another chance to get on the right side of history. Will he actually say that he will support and work with the Scottish Government to see this pilot project through?

I think I have been clear. I have been clear that the UK Government’s policy is not to proceed with drug consumption rooms. We believe, as I have said, that drugs devastate families and destroy communities. I was very clear about those things, but I am also very clear that the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Government appear to have achieved a workaround that allows them to have a pilot drug consumption room, probably in Glasgow, and the United Kingdom Government will not intervene in that, so the SNP now has no more excuses.

Can I press the Secretary of State on this point, because of course he has form on intervening in decisions of the Scottish Government? He says he will not intervene. Can we therefore be clear that he will say, on behalf of the UK Government, that he will not use any administrative or legislative means to frustrate or block this pilot policy by the Scottish Government?

I am very popular today. I will be with SNP Members in particular when I say that the answer is yes.