Drug Deaths Taskforce response: cross government approach

Cross government response to the Drug Deaths Taskforce report, Changing Lives. It contains a cross government action plan, response to Taskforce recommendations and a stigma action plan.

19. UK drug law

Taskforce Recommendation: The UK Government should immediately begin the process of reviewing the law to enable a public health approach to drugs to be implemented. The Scottish Government should continue to engage with the UK Government to support these changes. In the interim, the Scottish Government should do everything in its power to implement a public health approach.

The Scottish Government has focussed on what can be done within its powers to tackle the public health emergency. However, we are acutely aware that we are doing so within the framework of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) and this fact cannot be ignored. We would welcome and support a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act and how it could be changed to enable a health response to the drugs emergency in Scotland.

However, the UK Government have made it clear on numerous occasions, including to the Scottish Parliament Criminal Justice, Health, Social Care and Sport, and Social Justice and Social Security Committees in February 2022[62], that they do not currently propose any review of the Act.

The UK Government's latest white paper ('Swift, Certain, Tough: New Consequences for Drug Possession'[63]) sets out a three-tier framework for adult drug possession offences. These proposals are contradictory to the public health approach we are taking in Scotland and could undermine aspects of our National Mission if they are implemented here. The Minister for Drugs Policy has written to the relevant UK Minister to express opposition to these policies being operated in Scotland.

The Scottish Government will continue to support a review of UK drug legislation. However, it is also important to note that legislative issues are complex and wide ranging, and it would not be effective or appropriate to pick up a legislative model from another country for use in Scotland. We are currently exploring the right approach for the Scottish context, one that is evidence based and ensures the kind of change that is needed.

As we work to find solutions to the legal barriers we will continue to facilitate a public health approach, focusing on what can be done now within the current law to reduce harm and stop people dying through, for example, the work under the National Mission.


Email: Drugsmissiondeliveryteam@gov.scot

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