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SNP criticised for ‘de-facto decriminalisation’ of most dangerous drugs

The SNP Government has been criticised for making police officers’ jobs “impossible” with the “de-facto decriminalisation” of the most dangerous drugs including heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine.

In a major policy shift, the Lord Advocate announced changes to guidelines that will mean possession of a Class A drug could only result in a Recorded Police Warning.

Police Scotland guidance states Recorded Police Warnings “seek to have a positive impact on individuals by not criminalising them”, which contradicts the Lord Advocate’s claim that today’s move ‘did not represent decriminalisation.’

The Scottish Conservatives called the decision “dangerous” and said it would benefit drug dealers while making it more difficult for police officers to tackle the supply of Class A drugs.

Justice spokesman Jamie Greene MSP said “nothing that has been said today will stop drug deaths and nothing that has been said will guarantee access to treatment, which our Right to Recovery Bill would deliver.”

Jamie Greene added the way to tackle Scotland’s drug deaths crisis was to “improve access to treatment and rehabilitation, not to dilute how seriously we treat possession of deadly drugs like heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine.”

The Scottish Conservatives have called for a full Scottish Parliament debate and vote on the issue.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Jamie Greene MSP, said: “The Scottish Parliament must have a say with a full debate and vote on this topic, not just a quick Q&A session. We need to fully scrutinise the gravity of a decision of such importance and magnitude.

“Scotland’s drug death crisis is our national shame but the way to tackle it is improve access to treatment and rehabilitation, not to dilute how seriously we treat possession of deadly drugs like heroin, crystal meth and crack cocaine.

“The answer to our drugs crisis is more access to treatment, not this de-facto decriminalisation by the back door of drugs that are the scourge of our streets and our society.

“There is a fine line between drug possession and drug dealing. This dangerous decision will benefit drug dealers by making it more difficult to stop the supply. Police officers will be put in an impossible situation.

“Nothing that has been said will stop drug deaths and nothing that has been said will guarantee access to treatment, which our Right to Recovery Bill would deliver.”

Notes

Police Scotland guidance states Recorded Police Warnings do not seek to criminalise individuals. ‘Both schemes [Recorded Police Warnings and Antisocial Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notices] seek to have a positive impact on individuals by not criminalising them’. (Police Scotland, Direct Measures – Standard Operating Procedure, 6 April 2020, link).

The Lord Advocate’s statement contradicts Police Scotland’s guidance. The Lord Advocate said: ‘Recorded Police Warnings do not represent decriminalisation of an offence’. (Lord Advocate Statement, 22 September 2021).