For too long now The Courier has had to report on rising drugs deaths across Scotland, and particularly here in Dundee.
And for too long we have been demanding bold action from politicians to tackle the crisis.
Bold action has now been taken and it is a welcome signal that change may finally be happening.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain told MSPs on Wednesday that people caught with Class A drugs in Scotland could be given a discretionary police warning instead of facing prosecution.
The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Diversion from Prosecution.
Read the full statement here:https://t.co/TcG42dHr3B
— COPFS (@COPFS) September 22, 2021
The move will bring possession of hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, into line with Class B and C substances.
Class A drugs dealers will still be targets
It will free up police time so they can go after the dealers, say supporters.
And it will keep a great many more people out of the criminal justice system, where they run a greater risk of ending up unemployed, homeless, addicted or dead.
Crucially, charities say it will also allow people with addictions to get into treatment, instead of being sent to jail.
Of course, for that to happen, we need more investment in drug treatment services.
One big question: if people who commit low-level crimes because of their addictions are to now be diverted from prosecution in Scotland, what are they being diverted to? Scotland has a lot of drug users, a notorious shortage of addiction treatment services, and long waiting lists https://t.co/B2qL6vepzx
— Peter A Smith (@PeterAdamSmith) September 22, 2021
And for lasting change to happen, we will need bigger and bolder steps.
So this is not the solution to Scotland’s drugs death crisis but it is a solution.
Drugs deaths casualties not criminals
It is an acknowledgement that people battling addictions are seldom there out of choice or badness – and that no one is benefiting from the current system.
Scotland recorded 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020 – the highest rate in Europe.
They were not criminals in need of punishment. They were people in need of help.
This announcement recognises that reality.
It is bold and overdue and it is a sensible first step towards tackling one of the gravest public health emergencies of our time.