Volteface is happy to share our submission to the Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into use and misuse of drugs in Scotland.

Please follow this link to read our submission.

Read below for further details of the inquiry.

An increasing problem

Scotland has a distinct range of issues and problems associated with drug use. Problem drug-use is disproportionately higher compared to England and other European countries. Drugs-related deaths have increased consistently – rising from 224 in 1997 to 934 in 2017 – with opioid drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl and morphine, involved in 89% of cases. There is also a particularly strong link between problem drug use and poverty and deprivation in Scotland.

Tensions between reserved and devolved powers in this area have recently come to light following the Scottish Government’s proposal to establish a safe, legal drug consumption facility known as a ‘fix room’ in Glasgow, which was rendered impossible as it required legislative change at Westminster.

Purpose of the inquiry

The Scottish Affairs Committee will today launch an inquiry into drug use and misuse in Scotland at Crew 2000 in Edinburgh – a community drop-in facility which seeks to reduce harm, challenge perceptions and help people make positive choices about drug use by providing confidential and up to date information and support.

The Committee will explore the drivers behind the increase in problem drug use and drug-related deaths in Scotland, before considering whether the Scottish Government has sufficient powers to implement the drug treatment or prevention strategies which could most effectively deal with emerging trends in problem drug use in Scotland.

The Committee will consider how effectively the UK and Scottish Governments work together to tackle drugs misuse in Scotland, and whether the UK Government could be doing more to address these issues.

Chair’s comments

Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart MP commented on the inquiry launch:

“Scotland’s drug problem is widely known, but the drivers behind it and the reality of drugs users’ day to day lives remain largely hidden. The UK Government, which is responsible for drug legislation, cannot turn a blind eye to the escalating drug problem in Scotland. My Committee’s inquiry will uncover the truth behind drug misuse in Scotland; why drug-related deaths are on the rise, and how the UK and Scottish Government should work together to combat this worrying trend.”


Executive Summary

  • There has been a sharp increase in HIV diagnoses among people who inject drugs in Glasgow. The outbreak remains uncontained and cocaine injecting, homelessness and incarceration have been identified as infection risk factors.
  • Scotland has the highest rate mortality rate caused by drug use disorders. The key driver of DRD in Scotland is that there is an ageing cohort of people with a drug problem who have multiple complex health and social care needs.
  • Scotland, and other countries in the UK, are witnessing the emergence of a new phenomenon where social media platforms are being used to facilitate the supply of illicit drugs.
  • The Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership announced, after conducting a local needs assessment and feasibility study, that introducing a Drug Consumption Room in Glasgow city centre would address the burden of health and social harms caused by public injecting. However, attempts to implement such facilities have been blocked by the Home Office.
  • Further devolution of powers to the Scottish Government would remove the obstacles that are preventing Glasgow Greater and Clyde from implementing Drug Consumption Rooms.
  • Scotland could learn from the approach taken in Portugal where illicit drugs for personal use have been decriminalised, in Canada where the federal Government has legalised and regulated cannabis for adult use; and in Iceland where a holistic and resilience-based approach has been taken to prevent substance use among young people.

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