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The Scottish Government says the war on drugs has ‘failed’ and it is time to decriminalize currently illegal substances while promoting harm reduction services such as overdose prevention centres.
At a press conference on Friday 7 July, Scotland’s drug and alcohol policy minister, Elena Whitham, called on the UK government, of which Scotland is a part, to take a public health approach to drug addiction and to abandon the criminalization model.

Representatives of the British prime minister – and even the country’s Progressive Party – have already rejected this request.

Call for decriminalization
Scotland’s position on the issue is partly supported by a policy paper released the same day, setting out their position on decriminalization and related issues.

In addition to ending the ban on personal possession of controlled substances, Scotland is calling for the legalization of safe drug centers, increased access to naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, and permission to expand testing services anti-drugs to mitigate the risk of contamination in the illicit market.

“These are ambitious and sweeping, evidence-based proposals that will help save lives,” said Elena Whitham. “We want to create a society where problematic drug use is treated as a health issue, not a criminal problem, thereby reducing stigma and discrimination and enabling the person to recover and contribute positively to society. »
“We know these proposals will spark debate, but they are consistent with our approach to public health and would contribute to our national mission to improve and save lives,” the minister said. “We are working hard within the powers we have to reduce drug-related deaths, and while we have a long way to go, our approach simply runs counter to Westminster law within which we have to operate.

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The report and announcement on Friday come nearly four years after Scotland’s ruling party passed a resolution in support of decriminalizing drugs in Scotland.

UK rejection
But the British government in Westminster was quick to reject the reform proposal. Asked whether Scotland’s request to review drug laws could be granted, a spokesman for the Prime Minister told STV News the answer was “no”.

The representative said that although he has not seen Scotland’s report on decriminalization, “I am confident enough to say there are no plans to change our tough stance on drugs”.

This is not particularly surprising, with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak making clear he was aligning himself with the drug criminalization model, saying the government will step up the fight against drugs, involving a “strengthening” of the police force and banning of nitrous oxide.

Senior Labor official Rachel Reeves also said Scotland’s proposal was unlikely to go ahead.

“I don’t think it’s good policy,” he said. “I find it quite astounding that this is a priority for the Scottish Government,” amid unrelated government controversy.

The Scottish Department for Drugs and Alcohol policy report calls for ‘changes to the legal framework within which Scotland responds to the drug-related death crisis, to allow us to tailor policy decisions to our particular challenges’.

“The main ambition of the Scottish Government’s national mission is to reduce deaths and improve lives. “Our goal is that no one becomes addicted to substances, but if they do, they are supported and not criminalized for this condition. »

“These goals will continue to guide our drug policy, whatever legal framework we operate in, and we will work tirelessly to reduce drug harms within Scotland’s devolved powers,” the document continues. “We can and will do much more to reduce deaths and improve living conditions within these powers. »

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(Aurélien Bernard si Newsweed of 07/11/2023)

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