"It's about time" - Dumfries charity supports change in Scotland's drug policy

Video report by Greg Hoare

The head of a charity that supports drug users in the south of Scotland has welcomed a change in government policy.

North of the border, police are now able to warn people caught in possession of Class A substances, rather than prosecuting them. 

The Scottish Conservatives argue it effectively decriminalises drugs.  

A charity in Dumfries, the First Base Agency, says the major policy change could save lives.

25 years after Scotland's party leaders announced they would work in harmony to end Scotland's drugs epidemic, it's clear that pledge ended in abject failure. 

Last year there were 1,339 drug related deaths in Scotland.

Now there's been a major policy shift - those caught with small amounts of class A drugs, like heroin, can be given a formal warning by police, rather than being prosecuted.

For years Mark Frankland has supported drug users at the First Base Agency in Dumfries, and says it's about time the change was made.

He said: "We've just pulled out of Afghanistan after twenty years, we've been fighting the so called war on drugs for fifty.

The First Base Agency in Dumfries

But one of his volunteers, former user Iain Campbell, is sceptical.

He said: "It's not going to affect many anyway. Most of them have got criminal record. Not getting done for possession will make their lives a little bit easier, but it's not going to make much of a difference."

Other concerns include how the police will decide who they do prosecute, whether enough help is available to drug users who are instead referred to support services and whether or not this major change, which was announced in a brief parliamentary statement, has had enough scrutiny. 

The Scottish Government insists this is a significant step in its efforts to reduce drugs deaths. 

The Conservatives say they will push for a debate in parliament.

On the streets, concerns remain that even if drug users face less action from the police, without more support, they still face a greater danger from the drugs themselves. 

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