The government has reiterated its opposition to the opening of a drugs consumption room (DCR) in Glasgow, following a letter to home secretary Sajid Javid from the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group.
The letter sets out the case for a DCR in the light of record drug deaths in Scotland (DDN, July/August, page 4) and high rates of HIV in Glasgow among people who use drugs. It also cites the effectiveness of similar facilities in almost 70 cities worldwide in reducing equipment sharing and drug-related deaths. Although the Glasgow City Joint Integration Board approved the development of a business case more than two years ago (DDN, November 2016, page 4) and the local health board has sourced potential sites (DDN, July/August 2017, page 4), legal obstacles remain. While Scottish MSPs have backed the plan, Westminster has stated that it is firmly opposed.
The cross-party group’s letter says that the opening of a DCR is an ‘urgent priority’ and that the government’s position to date has ‘been simply to insist on the unlawfulness of DCRs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. We strongly believe a more open-minded and innovative approach is urgently needed to save lives and prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses such as HIV’. The letter urges the home secretary to adopt a similar position to that regarding festival drug testing, where local police and crime commissioners and health authorities are largely able to ‘develop their own positions without direction from Westminster’.
The response from crime minister Victoria Atkins, however, states that ‘our position on DCRs has been clear for some time: we have no plans to introduce them’. Consumption rooms do not form part of the drug strategy’s approach of ‘preventing drug use in our communities’, it says, and the government is ‘not prepared to sanction or condone activity that promotes the illicit drug trade and the harm that trade causes to individuals and communities’. Although DCRs were being operated in other countries ‘there remain legal and ethical issues for agencies involved’, it adds.
Should consumption rooms be a priority the current climate? Read Nick Goldstein’s article on page 10 of November’s DDN