Press Release: Scottish National Party MP Leads Cross-Party Effort To Tackle Drug Crisis
UK GOVERNMENT TOLD TO DECRIMINALISE AND DECLARE HEALTH EMERGENCY TO SAVE LIVES
The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard will today (Tuesday 29th September) introduce a Bill in Parliament which seeks to declare problem drug use a public health emergency, and which ramps up pressure on the UK government to take urgent steps to address the crisis – including backing the SNP’s long-standing calls to allow for safe drug consumption facilities.
The Bill – which has the backing of MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, Tories, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party – pushes the UK government to:
- Declare problem drug use a public health emergency,
- Review the effects of welfare sanctions on people who use drugs,
- Make provision for safe drug consumption facilities,
- Amend the Equality Act 2010 to recognise drug dependence as a health condition, and amend the classification of drugs in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971,
- Decriminalise the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use.
The SNP MP also criticised the UK government for earlier rejecting almost all recommendations published by the cross-party Scottish Affairs Committee to help reduce drug deaths in Scotland. The findings from the inquiry called for a rethink of current drugs policy, decriminalising drugs for personal use and backing consumption rooms.
Whilst policy on the use of controlled drugs is reserved to Westminster under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the SNP has consistently lobbied the UK government to adopt a public health approach to the crisis, to amend legislation away from criminalisation, and to devolve powers to the Scottish Parliament if it refuses to act.
Commenting, Tommy Sheppard MP said:
“The issue of problem drug use and drug deaths is a public health emergency and it is high time it was treated as such by the UK government.
“SNP MPs have repeatedly pressed the UK government to take immediate steps to tackle problem drug use – including through the introduction of safe drug consumption facilities and amending legislation.
“The recommendations set out earlier by the Scottish Affairs Committee were as a result of solid evidence from those affected by drug use, academics, service providers, and others with significant expertise in this area.
“For the UK government to simply dismiss them out of hand is dangerous. A worrying number of people are dying from drug use – many of these deaths are entirely preventable, yet instead of taking a public health approach to the problem, the UK government continues to criminalise and stigmatise people.
"That is why - with the backing of MPs from across Parliament - I am bringing forward my Problem Drug Use Bill that sets out key measures that the UK government must engage with seriously if we are to tackle this crisis and save lives.
“The relevant powers are reserved to Westminster and my Bill - if implemented - will allow for an effective approach to help those whose lives have been hit hard by problem drug use.
"The UK government cannot bury its head in the sand any longer. If it fails to act then it must devolve the relevant powers to Holyrood so that the Scottish Parliament can take the necessary steps to protect citizens."