While the rest of the UK chews at its collective neck around Brexit, in Scotland, the SNP unanimously voted at its annual conference to decriminalise possession and consumption of all drugs.
The delegates also called for powers around drug policy to be devolved to Edinburgh in order to enable this. This is crucial, as currently drug policy is controlled by Westminster, who block absolutely everything related to the reformation of the drug laws.
The SNP have a track record for this kind of enlightened and pragmatic thinking, as three years ago in 2016, they backed the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical use. The move was blocked by the government in London.
The naked fact of the matter is that in Scotland in 2018, we had 1187 deaths directly related to drug use. That’s three times higher than the UK, and the highest rate in the EU.
We’ve set up various task forces, had a lot of “talking shops” and all the rest of it. Evidence has been presented by a whole range of parties, from drug specialists through to user groups. I attended a couple of these committee hearings to present evidence a few months ago.
It’s become clear to me that the idea behind these initiatives is to attempt to “tackle” the problem of drugs and drug deaths, but without actually changing anything, because Westminster won’t allow it. In my view, this makes the whole thing a pointless waste of everyone’s time.
It has been proposed that safe consumption rooms be trialled, as evidence from elsewhere indicates that these spaces work extremely well in harm reduction terms, and beyond any doubt they save lives (and ultimately, they save the Health Services a significant amount of money). The Home Office refused to grant permission for the trial.
It has also been proposed that hard core, problem users be provided with heroin, as again, this has been shown to save lives and save money. Again, the Home Office bluntly refused permission.
And this is where we’re at in Scotland. We’ve a government with a lot of very good, progressive and humane ideas, but lacking any meaningful sort of power to be able to enact these.
This is a source of ongoing and intense indignation and frustration.
Nevertheless, there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel here, as Scotland voted pretty convincingly to remain in the EU, and we’re now being dragged out of it against our will.
In 2014, we had a vote for Scottish Independence. Unfortunately, this resulted in Scotland staying as a part of the UK. However, one of the big points the pro-remain groups made was that Scotland could only remain as part of the EU as part of the UK: if we chose independence from the rest of the UK, then we’d no longer be a part of the European Union.
This point appeared to affect how a lot of people voted.
Jump forward five years and here we are, on the point of leaving the European Union, in spite of all of all that was said and promised in 2014, and all because England and Wales are in a state of collective madness and cognitive dissonance. These countries have a collective population of around 58 million people, compared to Scotland, with a population of just over 5 million, so this is never going to change: what England wants we all get.
So now it looks very much as though the issue of independence is going to be on the table once again, and this time there is significant urgency attached. It’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t these days, but it appears that the EU have indicated that Scotland would be welcome back into the fold as a partner.
Perhaps all of the current chaos and uncertainty will result in something better. I certainly hope so.