Safe spaces for drug users to take substances under medical supervision should be provided in the UK as part of an overhaul of drug laws, MPs have concluded.
Although the Scottish government has been pushing for a so-called safe consumption facility to be set up, efforts have been blocked by Westminster.
But the Home Affairs Committee has published a report recommending a pilot in Glasgow is supported by Westminster and jointly funded by both governments.
The committee said if the UK government remains unwilling to support the pilot then the power to establish it should be devolved to the Scottish government.
The MPs recommended pilots of such facilities – where drug users can take substances under medical supervision, with the aim of preventing drug-related overdoses and other drug-related harms – in areas across the UK where local government and others deem there is a need.
Figures published last week revealed Scotland’s largest-ever fall in drug deaths, with data from National Records of Scotland (NRS) showing a total of 1,051 deaths due to drug misuse in 2022, a drop of 279 on the previous year.
But while the number of deaths linked to drugs misuse is now the lowest it has been since 2017, the NRS report made clear the rate of deaths is still “much higher” than it was when recording the data began in 1996.
The committee report said: “We recommend the government support a pilot in Glasgow by creating a legislative pathway under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that enables such a facility to operate legally.”
MPs said the pilot “must be evaluated in order to establish a reliable evidence base on the utility of a safe consumption facility in the UK”.
Responding to the recommendation, the government insisted “there is no safe way to take illegal drugs” and they have “no plans to consider” the safe consumption facility recommendation.
Report calls for establishment of national drug checking service in England
The report also recommended the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) “jointly establish a national drug checking service in England to enable people to submit drug samples by post anonymously”.
Additionally, the MPs said on-site drug-checking services at temporary events like music festivals and within the night-time economy should be rolled out, recommending the Home Office “establish a dedicated licensing scheme for drug checking at such events before the start of the summer 2024 festival season”.
MPs welcome reduction of barriers to researching psychedelics
The report stated the existing classifications of controlled substances should be reviewed by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to ensure they accurately reflect the risk of harm, with further reviews every 10 years.
MPs welcomed the UK government’s “commitment to reducing barriers to researching psychedelic drugs” and recommended they are “urgently” reclassified “in order to facilitate research on the medical or therapeutic value of these drugs”.
The committee also said both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 require reform.
“We recommend that the UK government reform the 1971 Act and 2001 Regulations in a way that promotes a greater role for public health in our response to drugs, whilst maintaining our law enforcement to tackling the illicit production and supply of controlled drugs,” it said.