Lib Dems submit drug & alcohol plan to government

Party calls for regulated cannabis market and end to prison sentences for possession for personal use

Wednesday 17th July 2019

Reacting to the latest drug-related death statistics that show 1,187 people lost their lives in 2018 – a rate three times higher than the UK average – the Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for cannabis to be legalised as part of a new plan for tackling drug and alcohol misuse.

The party’s ten-point plan to tackle drug and alcohol misuse states regulating the cannabis market would take it ‘out of the hands of criminals’ and tackle trends of increasing potency.

Delivering the plan to Scottish Government ministers, the party’s health spokesperson, Alex Cole-Hamilton, has warned “another decade of failure will not be tolerated”.

“The failure of Scotland’s last substance misuse strategy…can be measured in human lives. It has contributed to the crisis that has seen deaths reaching an all-time high,” he said.

We have a rate of drugs deaths almost three times as high as it is in the rest of the UK. Another decade of failure on this scale cannot be tolerated.

 Mr Cole-Hamilton is calling for “a crystal-clear commitment to stop sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison.

It makes sense to send them for treatment and education instead of somewhere like HMP Addiewell where one study found half of those released tested positive for drugs.

Through a combination of pre-emptive measures and compassionate treatment Scotland can turn a corner, but it will take a Scottish Government prepared to show real ambition.”

The plan also calls for a ministerial commitment to protect the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships for the duration of the strategy, after services saw a 20% cut in 2016-17.

Also demanded is an explanation as to why drug treatment and testing orders, which the government strategy says ‘can have a positive impact on both drug use and offending’, were only used 37 times in response to 3,600 convictions for possession in 2017-18.

There is also a call for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment, expanding on preliminary plans for a site in Glasgow.

Following on from the introduction of minimum unit pricing over a year ago – a step it was hoped would be significant enough to tackle some of the most harmful drinking in Scotland – the Liberal Democrats have also called for a price increase from 50p to 60p, ‘to meet the policy’s original ambition and account for inflation in the years that the policy’s implementation was delayed’.