Scotland’s top law officer has made clear it would “not be in the public interest” to prosecute people in a safe drugs consumption room with possession of illegal substances.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, the country’s most senior prosecutor, said she had not been asked to “sign off or approve” such a facility.
With mounting calls for a drugs consumption room to be piloted in Glasgow, she stressed her role in setting the policy for prosecutions.
Ms Bain said: “On the basis of the information I have been provided, I would be prepared to publish a prosecution policy that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users for simple possession offences committed within a pilot safer drugs consumption facility.”
Her comments came after cross-party MPs in Westminster’s Home Affairs Committee backed the establishment of a safe consumption room in Glasgow.
This could allow those struggling with addiction to safely take drugs under supervision from medical professionals, who could intervene in the event of an overdose.
The Scottish government has repeatedly called for Holyrood to be given the powers to set up a pilot project as part of its efforts to tackle drugs deaths north of the border, where the rate is the highest in Europe.
However, the UK government has consistently rejected pleas for such a facility, with a Home Office spokesperson saying recently: “There is no safe way to take illegal drugs, which devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, and we have no plans to consider this.”
Ms Bain said: “I have not been asked to sign off or approve any facility and it would not be appropriate for me to do so.
“However, prosecution policy is for me alone to set and this policy, and the consequences which flow from it, have been considered deeply and thoroughly.”
Her statement that prosecution would not be in the public interest “will not extend to any criminal offences other than possession of controlled substances”, the lord advocate added, making clear “it does not amount to an exclusion zone whereby a range of criminality is tolerated”.
She added: “Police Scotland have operational independence and it has been of the utmost importance to me to ensure that Police Scotland retain the ability to effectively police the facility and ensure that the wider community, those operating the site and those using the facility can be kept safe.”
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The lord advocate’s statement comes after figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed there were a total of 1,051 deaths due to drug misuse in Scotland in 2022.
While this is down by 279 from the previous year, the NRS report made clear the rate of deaths is still “much higher” than it was when recording the data began in 1996.
With a rate of 19.8 drug misuse deaths for every 100,000 people in 2022, it has the highest drug death rate in Europe.