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  1. ITV Report

Borders' addiction charity backs calls to decriminalise drugs

Credit: PA

Calls to decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use have been backed by an addiction charity in the Scottish Borders.

Last year drug-related deaths in Scotland reached an all-time high, with 1187 deaths. This was a 27% increase on the previous year, giving Scotland the highest drug death rate in the EU.

Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee believe a change in the the law in Scotland is the best way forward. The cross-party committee conducted an inquiry which they describe as one of the most extensive inquiries ever carried out into problem drug use in Scotland. In a report published this week they suggested removing criminal charges for personal drug use. They recommend that rather than a criminal justice matter, drug misuse should be treated by the department for Health and Social Care.

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The UK Government currently treats drugs as a criminal justice matter. However, the evidence we have heard overwhelmingly shows that the current approach is counter-productive. We therefore recommend that the UK Government adopts a public health approach to drugs, and transfers lead responsibility for drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department for Health and Social Care."

– Scottish Affairs Committee

Addaction Borders, a charity based in Galashiels, is supporting the move, as well as the introduction of 'safe consumption rooms' in Scotland in a bid to tackle drug misuse.

It would be encouraging, we would see more people and be able to treat and support people in a more positive way. At the moment we're seeing a lot of drug deaths, so if something isn't working, we have to look to it to make changes to address things from a different angle. And this would be a small step in the right direction"

– Gill Donnan, Service Manager, Addaction Borders

Three years ago, Glasgow City Council proposed allowing users to take their own drugs while being supervised by medical staff at a special facility in the city, but the scheme was rejected by the Home Office.

22
deaths in the Scottish Borders in 2018.
20
deaths in Dumfries and Galloway in 2018.

The Home Office says it currently has no plans to decriminalise drug possession, and argues that doing so wouldn't eliminate the crime associated with the drugs trade.