Scotland wants to decriminalize drugs. The UK government just says no

LONDON (AP) — The Scottish government has proposed decriminalizing possession of all drugs for personal use to tackle one of the highest overdose death rates in Europe.

The suggestion was almost instantly blocked by Britain’s Conservative government in London, which said it had “no plans” to relax drug laws.

Edinburgh’s semi-autonomous government, led by the pro-independence Scottish National Party, said on Friday that removing criminal penalties for drug possession “would ensure the provision of safe and evidence-based harm reduction services”.

Scotland’s drug overdose death rate is three times that of the UK as a whole and the highest in Western Europe. Last year there were almost 1,100 drug-related deaths in Scotland, which has a population of 5.5 million, according to government figures.

‘The war on drugs has failed,’ Scotland’s drugs minister Elena Whitham told a news conference alongside former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and ex-Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss , both supporters of drug law reform.

“Our current drug law doesn’t stop people from using drugs, it doesn’t stop people from suffering associated harms, and most importantly, it doesn’t stop people from dying,” Whitham said.

The Scottish government said decriminalization would free “individuals from fear to access treatment and support, reduce drug-related harm and ultimately improve lives”. He cited the example of Portugal, which dropped criminal penalties for drug possession more than two decades ago and focused on treatment.

Whitham said the government also wanted to change the law to allow for supervised drug consumption rooms and would consider introducing regulated drug supply.

She said the crisis would worsen without drastic change. She said Scotland “is facing a barrel of a storm in terms of synthetic opioids and new and new street benzodiazepines making their way to our shores”.

“If we’re not prepared for this coming here, with 21st century drug laws in place, I’m terrified of what it might look like,” she said.

But Russell Findlay, justice spokesman for the Scottish Conservative Party, said ‘essentially legalizing heroin, crack and other Class A drugs’ would not solve the problem of drug deaths in Scotland. .

Scotland already allows people caught with illegal drugs to receive a warning from the police rather than being prosecuted, but decriminalizing drugs would require the support of the UK government.

Max Blain, spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said that would not happen.

“There are no plans to change our strong stance on drugs,” he said.

The Scottish government often took more liberal positions on social issues than the Conservative administration in London. Last year, a law passed by the Scottish parliament that would facilitate formal gender reassignment was blocked by Sunak’s government.

The ruling SNP is using these disagreements to bolster its argument that Scotland would be better off leaving the UK and becoming an independent country.

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