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Minister seeks UK Government approval for drug testing pilot scheme

The Scottish Government is seeking to take action to stem drug deaths (PA)
The Scottish Government is seeking to take action to stem drug deaths (PA)

Scotland’s drugs minister has urged the UK Government to “look favourably” on proposals to pilot a testing scheme in three cities.

Angela Constance spoke to UK policing minister Kit Malthouse during a meeting in London to discuss action to tackle the drug deaths crisis.

The most recent annual statistics show 1,339 Scots died from drugs in 2020, with the Scottish Government launching a “national mission” to fix the problem.

Ms Constance pointed to a pilot scheme being proposed that would allow for drugs to be tested by users to check potency and ensure they are free from harmful substances.

However, a Home Office licence would be required for the Stirling University-led pilot to be launched in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Angela Constance
Angela Constance met with the UK policing minister in London on Thursday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Constance said in a statement after the meeting on Thursday: “The forthcoming applications by health boards for drug checking facilities in Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow were also discussed.

“We are hopeful the Home Office will look favourably on these as they will enable people who use drugs to ensure what they are taking is safe and will also mean services on the ground can react more swiftly to any emerging trends in terms of drug use.”

The minister also said she reiterated her willingness to seek to open a safe consumption facility in Scotland without UK Government approval if it is legal to do so.

Such facilities would allow people struggling with addiction to take drugs in a safe environment, supervised by medical professionals, to cut down on overdose risks.

Ms Constance said: “I reiterated that in Scotland we continue to take a public health and evidence-led approach and stressed that while the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is reserved to the UK Government, we are continuing to work with partners, including Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland, to examine how a safer drug consumption facility could operate and be policed within the existing legal framework.

“The reality is, Scotland is in the midst of a public health emergency and that needs a public health response and we call again on the UK Government to either reform the Misuse of Drugs Act or devolve it.”

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