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Committee examines use and misuse of drugs in Scotland

4 March 2019

Today the Scottish Affairs Committee will visit Crew 2000 – a drop-in facility in Edinburgh which provides information, advice and support around drug use – to launch an inquiry into drug misuse in Scotland, to understand what steps the UK Government could take to help address the rise of drug related deaths in Scotland.

An increasing problem

Scotland has a distinct range of issues and problems associated with drug use. Problem drug-use is disproportionately higher compared to England and other European countries. Drugs-related deaths have increased consistently – rising from 224 in 1997 to 934 in 2017 – with opioid drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl and morphine, involved in 89% of cases. There is also a particularly strong link between problem drug use and poverty and deprivation in Scotland.

Tensions between reserved and devolved powers in this area have recently come to light following the Scottish Government's proposal to establish a safe, legal drug consumption facility known as a ‘fix room' in Glasgow, which was rendered impossible as it required legislative change at Westminster.

Purpose of the inquiry

The Scottish Affairs Committee will today launch an inquiry into drug use and misuse in Scotland at Crew 2000 in Edinburgh – a community drop-in facility which seeks to reduce harm, challenge perceptions and help people make positive choices about drug use by providing confidential and up to date information and support.

The Committee will explore the drivers behind the increase in problem drug use and drug-related deaths in Scotland, before considering whether the Scottish Government has sufficient powers to implement the drug treatment or prevention strategies which could most effectively deal with emerging trends in problem drug use in Scotland.

The Committee will consider how effectively the UK and Scottish Governments work together to tackle drugs misuse in Scotland, and whether the UK Government could be doing more to address these issues.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart MP commented on the inquiry launch:

“Scotland's drug problem is widely known, but the drivers behind it and the reality of drugs users' day to day lives remain largely hidden. The UK Government, which is responsible for drug legislation, cannot turn a blind eye to the escalating drug problem in Scotland. My Committee's inquiry will uncover the truth behind drug misuse in Scotland; why drug-related deaths are on the rise, and how the UK and Scottish Government should work together to combat this worrying trend.”

Call for written evidence

The Committee is inviting written evidence on the following questions:

  • What are the unique drivers of drugs abuse in Scotland? How is drugs misuse in Scotland different from the rest of the UK?
  • To what extent does UK-wide drugs legislation affect the Scottish Government's ability to address the specific drivers of drugs abuse in Scotland? 
  • What is the relationship between poverty and deprivation and problem drug use? What role could reserved social security policy play in addressing problem drug use?
  • How is the drugs market in Scotland changing? How well do current regulations meet the challenges of new trends in drug disruption, such as the “dark web”. Are any changes needed to the current regulatory landscape?
  • Are there other areas of reserved policy which is influencing the Scottish Government's ability to address drugs misuse in Scotland?
  • How effectively do the UK and Scottish Governments work together to tackle drugs misuse in Scotland? Do the UK and Scottish Governments share best practice, information and policy outcomes to help address drugs misuse in Scotland?
  • Would further devolution of powers enable the Scottish Government more effectively address drugs misuse in Scotland and tailor their approach to Scotland's needs? 
  • What could Scotland learn from the approach taken to tackle drug misuse in other countries?

Contribute views and ideas to the inquiry by submitting written evidence here by Friday 26 April 2019.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto