Scotland’s public health minister has urged the UK government to change drugs laws after visiting a medically supervised safer drug consumption facility in Paris.
Plans to set up a similar space in Glasgow have been under discussion for a number of years, with the Scottish government and the city council giving it the go-ahead.
Power over drugs legislation is held by Westminster, however, meaning it would be illegal for a facility to be established in Scotland at present.
The French experience
Joe FitzPatrick visited Paris earlier this week to see first-hand how safer drug consumption rooms operate.
The Espace Gaia, near the Gare du Nord, was the city’s first safer consumption room when it opened in 2016, and now has 1,200 registered users.
It aims to reduce the harms caused by drug use through medical and psychiatric support, sterile equipment and hepatitis and HIV screening, while also providing access to addiction treatment.
A new public health law in France protects staff in supervised facilities such as Espace Gaia from prosecution and tolerates the consumption of drugs inside such facilities.
“What Scotland faces in terms of drugs-related deaths is an emergency”
FitzPatrick said the visit provided an “invaluable insight” into how medically supervised safer drug consumption facilities can work. He continued:
These sorts of centres exist around the world, including in France, Australia, Denmark, and Canada.
What Scotland faces in terms of drugs-related deaths is an emergency and I am convening an expert group to advise on what further changes, in practice or in law, could help save lives and reduce harm.
The Scottish Government is supportive of a proposal by Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership to set up a facility similar to Espace Gaia, particularly in light of the growing number of HIV cases in the city.
However, for this to happen, the UK Government needs to change the law to allow them to operate.
If they refuse, we want them to devolve this responsibility so the Scottish Parliament can act.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?