MPs call for ‘safe spaces’ where illegal drugs can be taken in the UK
It's just one of the measures recommended in a report published by the Home Affairs Committee.
MPs are calling for safe spaces for illegal drug consumption to be introduced in the UK as part of an overhaul of drug laws.
Over the past few years, the Scottish Government has been pressing for so-called ‘safe consumption facilities’ to be set up across the UK, where drug users would effectively be able to take illegal substances under medical supervision.
The aim of these ‘safe spaces’ would be to eventually prevent drug-related overdoses and other drug-related incidents in areas nationwide where there’s deemed to be a need.
But so far, all their calls have been blocked the central Government in Westminster – until today.
Now, the Home Affairs Committee has published a report that recommends a pilot in Glasgow be supported by Westminster and jointly-funded by both Governments, and, in the instance that the UK Government remains unwilling to support the pilot, then the Committee wants the power to establish the pilot devolved to the Scottish Government.
“We recommend the government support a pilot in Glasgow by creating a legislative pathway under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that enables such a facility to operate legally,” the Committee said in its report.
The report also recommended that the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) “jointly establish a national drug checking service in England” to enable people to “submit drug samples by post anonymously”.
A review of the existing classifications of controlled substances by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) was also called for to ensure they “accurately reflect the risk of harm” – with further reviews every 10 years.
The Committee also said both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 require reform, adding in its report: “We recommend that the UK government reform the 1971 Act and 2001 Regulations in a way that promotes a greater role for public health in our response to drugs, whilst maintaining our law enforcement to tackling the illicit production and supply of controlled drugs.”
The Committee’s report today comes after figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) revealed last week that Scotland has seen its largest-ever fall in drug deaths, with a total of 1,051 deaths due to drug misuse in 2022 – which is a drop of 279 on the previous year.
However, while this is the lowest figure since 2017, the NRS data still showed that the rate of deaths is “much higher” than it was when recording the data began in 1996.
Several UK MPs have said the recommended pilot “must be evaluated” by the UK Government in order to establish a “reliable evidence base on the utility of a safe consumption facility” nationwide.
In response to the Committee’s reports and recommendations, a Home Office spokesperson said claimed there is “no safe way to take illegal drugs” as they “devastate lives, ruin families, and damage communities”.
“We have no plans to consider this,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
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“Our 10-year Drugs Strategy set out ambitious plans, backed with a record £3 billion funding over three years, to tackle the supply of illicit drugs through relentless policing action and building a world-class system of treatment and recovery to turn people’s lives around and prevent crime.”
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