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Scottish government proposes to make drug possession legal

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EDINBURGH: Scotland, which has one of the highest drug death rates in Europe, is seeking to decriminalise all drugs for personal use, according to a policy paper published Friday (Jul 7).

The move would “allow people found in possession of drugs to be treated and supported rather than criminalised and excluded”, the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh said in a statement accompanying the release of the paper on drug law reform.

The decriminalisation would also mean people in recovery would have a better chance of employment as they will not have a criminal record.

The proposals also include legislative changes that would allow the government to “fully and properly implement harm reduction measures” such as supervised drug consumption facilities.

“Scotland needs a caring, compassionate and human rights informed drugs policy, with public health and the reduction of harm as its underlying principles.

“We are ready to work with the UK Government to put into practice this progressive policy,” Scottish drugs minister Elena Whitham said.

But the UK government in London, which is in charge of the whole country’s drug laws, poured cold water on the proposals.

“Whilst I haven’t seen those reports, I think I’m confident enough to say that there are no plans to alter our tough stance on drugs,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said.

The main opposition Labour party also ruled out a shift in drug policy. “The short answer is no,” finance spokeswoman Rachel Reeves said.

“I don’t think this sounds like a good policy,” she added.

Scotland had 1,330 drug-related deaths in 2021, according to government figures, which was nine fewer than in 2020.

The slight drop comes following eight consecutive years of increases since 2013.

Scotland’s drug misuse death rate in 2020 was 3.7 times higher than for the UK as a whole, and higher than that of any European country.

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