British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Glasgow (Scotland) on April 28, 2023. (Photo Neil Hanna / AFP) NEIL HANNA / AFP
London, in charge of drugs legislation for the whole of the United Kingdom, has rejected the Scottish independence government’s plan to decriminalize the possession of drugs used for personal consumption.
Scotland, governed by the Scottish National Party (SNP), has been trying for several years to influence the country’s drug policy, hoping to reduce its drug-related death rate. This decriminalization “would allow those arrested in possession of drugs to be treated and helped rather than prosecuted and excluded”, justified the Scottish government in a declaration accompanying this proposal. The Scottish Government is responsible for health and social policies relating to drug use.
Opening of shooting rooms
The Scottish Executive advocates treating consumers as patients rather than criminals. The reform also plans to authorize the implementation of measures to reduce the dangers associated with taking drugs, for example by creating supervised places (shooting rooms). “Scotland needs a caring, compassionate and human rights-based policy, with public health and harm reduction as fundamental principles”said the secretary of state in charge of drugs in the Scottish government, Elena Whitham. “We are ready to work with the British government to put this progressive policy into practice”she added.
But London is fiercely against it! ” I have not seen [la proposition]but I think it is safe to say that there are no plans to change our firm drug policy”, reacted the spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry also judged “irresponsible” the Scottish proposal. The Labor Party, the main opposition party, also rejected any change in the law.
The highest drug-related death rate in Europe
With 327 deaths per million inhabitants, Scotland had the highest drug-related death rate in Europe in 2020, with Norway ranking second, but far behind with 85 deaths, according to official statistics. According to official figures, 1,330 people died in Scotland in connection with their drug use in 2021, a figure down slightly from 2020, but following eight consecutive years of increases. The drug-related death rate was 3.7 times higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole in 2020, and higher than in the rest of Europe.
The Scottish government, which has so far failed to organize a new independence referendum since the lost one in 2014, regularly clashes with London over the division of powers between the UK’s central government and the Scottish Parliament.
Earlier this year, the Conservative government blocked a bill passed by the local parliament on gender change.