A Home Office minister has told a parliamentary inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland that he has an “open mind” about the use of drug consumption rooms to tackle addiction.
Kit Malthouse, minister for crime, policing and the fire service, told the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee that although there are “significant legal hurdles” associated with legalising safe drug-using spaces, which are currently blocked under UK law, he was prepared to look at the evidence that they work.
The committee’s report comes after the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland rose to record levels in 2018, with 1,187 deaths.
However, Malthouse warned in evidence to the committee that changing the legislation “would take some time” and instead suggested the Scottish government focus on “a quick investment in treatment” that will have “a much bigger impact” on the number of drug deaths in the country.
Malthouse’s comments are included in the Committee’s report, published on 4 November 2019, which also called for the decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs for personal use and for the Department of Health and Social Care to take on the drugs policy remit.
Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, which published a report with similar findings in October 2019, said the Scottish Affairs Committee “recognises, like we did, that drug consumption rooms and decriminalisation are only part of a successful approach to tackling the problem of drugs”.
“There needs to be a radical upgrade in treatment and holistic care for those who are dependent on drugs and this should begin without delay.”