Home Office refuses to answer on drugs policy

UK Government minister will not give evidence to MPs’ inquiry into drug deaths in Scotland

Saturday 22nd June 2019

The Home Office has refused to give evidence to a Westminster committee investigating drug deaths in Scotland, despite sustained criticism over its refusal to allow a safe consumption facility to be established in Glasgow.

Pete Wishart MP, who chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee, described the move as “reprehensible”.

The committee is considering whether the Scottish Parliament needs to have more powers to deal with rising drugs deaths and believes ‘urgent reform’ of existing policy is needed.

This could include giving the Scottish Government the ability to vary the law to allow the opening of a safe consumption room where people can inject drugs under medical supervision.

But Mr Wishart says Victoria Atkins, the UK Government’s minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, says she will not appear before the committee despite being asked ‘on numerous occasions’.

Mr Wishart commented: “When hundreds of people are dying each year from drugs in Scotland, it is reprehensible that the Minister will not come to the Scottish Affairs Committee to answer some important questions about the UK’s drug policy.

“If the government is confident that it is taking the right approach to tackling drug misuse it should be willing to appear before my Committee to defend its position.”

Campaigners, many local politicians and the Scottish Government have all argued a safe consumption space in Glasgow would help stem rising drug-related deaths.

It’s anticipated the next statistics could show the highest level of deaths on record.

Earlier this month local MP Alison Thewliss said the status quo was “failing” and had led to a rise in Hepatitis C and HIV infection rates in her constituency. 

Elsewhere, a Canadian drugs expert has told healthandcare.scot the answer could lie in activists setting up unsanctioned ‘pop up’ supervised consumption sites, as happened in Vancouver.