Sir Keir Starmer has vowed not to stand in the way of drug consumption rooms in Scotland if he becomes prime minister.
Speaking exclusively to The Courier during a visit to Kirkcaldy, the Labour leader promised he would “respect” the decision of the Scottish Parliament if it decides to back the introduction of the facilities.
Campaigners say the centres – where people can inject drugs under supervision – are needed to tackle the drug deaths crisis in Scotland.
A significant breakthrough
Drug laws are decided at Westminster and Sir Keir previously ruled out any relaxation if he becomes prime minister.
But in a significant breakthrough, the Labour boss said he would now not stand in the way of their introduction in Scotland if MSPs vote to back it.
He said: “As prime minister, I would have respect for the Scottish Parliament and where there’s a decision for the Scottish Parliament to rightly make, I would have respect for them.”
Sir Keir insisted he is aligned on the issue with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
He said: “You will not find a wafer between me and Anas on this.
“We work together as partners and I’m certainly not in the business of trampling on issues that are for the Scottish Parliament.
“But I am very, very concerned – and we’ll work with Anas and others – to ensure that we get to the underlying issues, the decade of appalling failure under the SNP.
“We’re talking about the tail end of this after ten years of failure. I think we have to get to the fundamentals of this.”
An embarrassing split
We revealed last year how the UK party faced an embarrassing split with MSPs after Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper tried to distance herself from a Labour Bill at Holyrood which would pave the way for overdose prevention centres.
It emerged party bosses in London ignored correspondence from their Scottish counterparts for months, while Ms Cooper refused to set out her own position.
Scottish Labour was also criticised ahead of the last Holyrood election for leaving drug decriminalisation out of their manifesto, despite adopting it as an official policy five months earlier.
It came after Sir Keir repeatedly refused to back a relaxation and said Tory policy on the issue was “roughly right”.
The Scottish Government is currently working “to examine how a safer drug consumption facility could operate within the existing legal framework, focusing on how any such facility could operate and be policed”.
But the UK Government remains opposed to the centres and has said a “range of crimes” would be committed by both service users and staff in the course of using such facilities.