UK Government refuses to attend Glasgow drug summit

Minister suggests existing harm reduction approach sufficient

Friday 6th September 2019

A UK Government minister has said he will not be attending a summit in Glasgow to tackle drug deaths.

Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse MP said he was ‘very concerned’ at drug-related deaths in Scotland but was ‘unable to commit to attending’.

In a letter to the organisers of the meeting he also says the UK Government has ‘no plans’ to allow supervised consumption facilities.

Campaigners say the harm reduction spaces have helped to tackle overdose deaths abroad.

But the letter focuses on existing harm reduction approaches, including vaccinations against certain bloodborne infections and needle exchanges, as well as anti-overdose drug Naloxone and heroin-assisted treatment programmes.

Mr Malthouse adds UK ministers are currently considering recommendations from an advisory panel on how to support/assist an ageing population of heroin users with complex health issues that is ‘partly’ behind rising drug-related deaths across the UK.

Home secretary Priti Patel had been invited to attend by SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who said she was “utterly furious” that no one from the UK Government would be attending.

The Glasgow Central MP said: "We have a public health crisis in Scotland, and it's taken the UK Government 6 weeks to respond with platitudes from the Minister for Crime and Policing. To continue to dismiss the overwhelming evidence in support of a Supervised Drug Consumption Facility out of hand is appalling.

"In the Programme for Government this week the First Minister referred to Scotland's drug deaths as a public health emergency, and committed an extra £20m to help tackle the issue – the UK government won’t even bother to come Glasgow and find out why people are dying. We once again see a tale of two governments.

"Drug deaths are at a record high not only in Scotland, but also in England and Wales. It's plain to see that the current system is not adequately tackling the problem. The Tories know this, they've seen the evidence, and yet they actively choose to do nothing. That's irresponsible, and it's reckless.

"The UK Government must wake up on this issue. The prime minister and the home secretary must now get out from behind their desks in Westminster, come to Glasgow and see why urgent action is needed. We cannot wait.”




Image: Kit Malthouse MP, by UK Parliament, licensed under CC BY 3.0