09/10/2017 14:35 BST | Updated 09/10/2017 14:44 BST

Scotland Should Have The Power To Decriminalise Drugs, Says SNP

'All the government has achieved... is criminalising a generation of people.'


Drug laws should be devolved to Scotland so the government in Holyrood can make moves towards decriminalisation, SNP party delegates have said. 

Members of the party, which dominates north of the border, have voted for a motion at their conference in Glasgow for a radical shake-up in policy. 

The motion calls for drug law powers to be passed to Edinburgh so the Scottish Parliament can consider “all options for harm reduction, including drug declassifcation, decriminalisation and regulation”. 

It does not set out any policy on any specific drug. 

It says, however, that power-holders should conduct a “comprehensive review of policy” which sees “substance misuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal matter” and works towards “lifting the stigma associated with addiction; remove barriers between police and communities and allow policy to reflect the values of our progressive society.”

The motion is not yet backed by the SNP-led Scottish Government but adopting the approach as party policy could pave the way to drug reform and shape devolution discussions in the future. 

The number of drug deaths in Scotland hit 867 last year, more than two times the rate in the rest of the UK and also thought to be the highest in Europe.

Opiates or opioids contributed to 765 of those deaths (88%), including heroin and/or morphine in the case of 473 (55%) and methadone in the case of 362. 

Policing and prosecution powers sits with the Scottish Government but the Misuse of Drugs Act is legislation reserved by Westminster.  

National Council member Josh Mennie put forward the motion. It was backed by Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan, who has previously spoken about the issue in Westminster.  

Mennie said: “We need to reform our drug policy because decades of the so called war on drugs has failed. 

“All the government has achieved from the war on drugs is criminalising a generation of people who choose to use cannabis and perhaps other substances.  

“We need a drug policy that closer reflects our progressive values and allows choice.”