The Home Secretary has reiterated his outright refusal to change legislation which would allow for safe drug consumption rooms in Scotland.
Sajid Javid MP appeared on Monday afternoon before the Home Affairs Committee in Westminster, in his capacity as Home Secretary.
He doubled down Home Office policy refusing to change drugs legislation, including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, saying making drugs illegal stops people accessing substances which can kill.
Figures released last week showed 1,187 people died in Scotland in 2018 from drug-induced death and the country has the highest rate of death recorded in the developed world.
Sixty-six of those deaths took place in Dundee, second only to Glasgow in the drugs fatality rate.
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “The Home Secretary dismissing the role safer consumption facilities could play as its counter to their ‘long established policy’ is disappointing. It’s clear that in the face of lost 1,200 drug deaths in Scotland last year that the UK government’s ‘long established policy’ is no longer an option.
“Lives are at stake and it is vital we take action now. It’s widely expected this week that there will be a new Home Secretary, so I hope one of their first actions is to revisit this vital issue and work with us to help save lives.
“I struggle to believe that any minister in the UK Government could not have been moved by the sheer number and drug deaths so I would implore them to at least sit down with me so we can discuss how we make the changes that, while difficult, are so tangibly necessary in the face of this debt paid in human lives.”
The Scottish Government adopted policy which supports the use of so-called safe consumption rooms, with plans to open facilities mooted for Glasgow.
The rooms would allow for addicts to consume illegal drugs like heroin in supervised conditions, and their use have been attributed to a decline in the death-from-drugs rate in countries including Canada.
The Home Secretary was scrutinised on Scotland’s “harrowing” statistics by Douglas Ross MP, the representative for Moray.
He said: “(The statistics) are a tragedy and a reminder of how harmful controlled drugs are.
“It is why drugs are prohibited, they lead to deaths which are tragic not just for the users but families and friends.
“Many people suffer in other ways from addiction which affects the whole community where they live.
“There has been an increase in deaths in Scotland and this is a concern.
“Drugs consumption rooms…are prohibited. It would fly directly in the face of long established policy of making sure…we stop people having access to drugs which could kill them.
“If we were to have these rooms it would mean you would have some designated for people to consume illegal drugs.
“There have been recent reports…I will want to look at reports but I have no intention of changing current policy.”