Drugs Policy

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2021.

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Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

This week, the state of Oregon decriminalised personal possession of all drugs. It will still, rightly, prosecute dealers, but it will now offer users a range of public health options to help to address drug use and addiction. That is in complete contrast to the lack of options available here. Does the First Minister accept that the war on drugs has been a disastrous failure, that we will never arrest our way to a drugs-free society, and that we now need a cross-party initiative, supported by experts in the field, to consider how we can introduce a similarly humane and effective drugs policy here?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

In principle, my answer is yes. A couple of weeks ago, I set out the approach that we will take with the new dedicated Minister for Drugs Policy. We need to do things differently and better, and we absolutely need to reduce drastically the number of people in Scotland who lose their lives through drug addiction. We have committed significant extra resources to that and are open minded about different ways of working.

As, I am sure, Neil Findlay recognises, there are significant constraints. Decriminalising drugs is not something that the Scottish Parliament could do within the powers that we currently have. Therefore, for as long as we do not have those powers, we need to engage the United Kingdom Government in the discussions. The work will be led by Angela Constance, and we absolutely want consensus on how we might do things better. I absolutely agree that we should not seek to criminalise or arrest our way out of a drugs crisis. It is a public health crisis and should be treated as such.