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Safe consumption room must go ahead to tackle drug deaths emergency – Sturgeon

The First Minister called for more powers to be handed to Holyrood to deal with the number of deaths.

The Scottish Government wants to open a safe drug consumption centre in Glasgow (PA)
The Scottish Government wants to open a safe drug consumption centre in Glasgow (PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scotland is facing a drugs “emergency”, as she called again for powers to deal with the problem to be devolved to Holyrood.

With drug deaths in Scotland expected to exceed 1,000 this year, the First Minister said it is a “massive problem”.

She said it is therefore “unconscionable” that the UK Government will not permit a safe consumption facility to be set up in Glasgow.

The First Minister was speaking after drugs expert Dr Andrew McAuley, from Glasgow Caledonian University, told the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster that the case for a drug consumption room in the city is “arguably the most compelling Europe has seen”.

He told MPs on Tuesday: “The HIV outbreak, drug death epidemic, largest botulism outbreak Europe has ever seen – there’s a whole host of reasons why Glasgow is a perfect case for the UK’s first consumption room.”

Despite such a facility being supported by the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council, the Home Office has blocked the move.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “There is a compelling case that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 needs to be substantially amended so that action can be taken to help halt the emergency of drugs deaths.

“If the UK Government continues not to allow Scotland to take innovative approaches to tackling drugs deaths, such as establishing medically-supervised drug consumption facilities, we call on them to devolve the powers to this Parliament so we can do what is necessary.”

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Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions. (Jane Barlow/PA)

There were 934 drug deaths in Scotland in 2017, with the rate of fatalities 2.5 times higher than elsewhere in the UK.

SNP backbencher Stuart McMillan raised fears any delay in action from the UK Government will result in “further harm, further deaths of some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland”.

Ms Sturgeon urged the Tories to “drop the knee-jerk opposition to safe consumption facilities”.

She continued: “When we have health professionals and experts in this field saying this is one of the most important things we could do in Glasgow right now, then it is unconscionable that we have a UK Government … standing in the way of that.”

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