The UK Government has announced that the much anticipated UK summit on issues relating to drug use will be held in Glasgow on the 27th of February 2020.
According to the Government, the summit will bring together a range of health professionals, Government ministers and senior police officers from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to discuss how to work together to best prevent drug-related deaths.
The announcement of the event comes after 1,187 drug-related deaths where registered in Scotland in 2018, the highest on record and a quarter of the overall UK level.
The Scottish Government have been lobbying the UK Government for the introduction of drug consumption room in Glasgow. Drug consumption rooms offer a space where people can inject street drugs under medical supervision and were proposed as a means to address the current HIV outbreak in Glasgow in 2016. So far, the proposal has been rejected by UK ministers.
It is hoped the event will also boost collaboration between the UK Government and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations on drug-related issues. Professor Dame Carol Black who has led the UK Government’s independent review of drugs, will present her findings to the devolved administrations at the summit.
Kit Malthouse, the UK Minister whose remit covers crime and policing will chair the event.
Last year, on the 23rd of October, Mr Malthouse rejected the introduction of drug consumption rooms, however, did say he had an open mind on the issue. In an article in the National, he stated he did not want the intervention to be seen as a ‘silver bullet’ to the current drug-related death crisis. He later opposed the decriminalisation of drugs as a ‘bad move’.
Regarding the summit, Mr Malthouse stated:
“People are dying from drugs every day across the UK, and this summit will bring us together to tackle the issue of drug misuse” he added.
“I look forward to meeting key individuals from across the UK and listening to their views on addressing this challenge.”
Representatives from Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care will be invited to attend, along with their counterparts from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Senior police officers are also invited to attend, as are the Dr Edward Day, Drug Recovery Champion; Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, the Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs; and representatives from the National Crime Agency.
Scottish Drugs Forum’s CEO, David Liddell, said:
“We welcome this high-level summit, which brings around the same table the people who have the levers of power necessary to implement measures.
“These measures should focus on an approach to social inclusion which involves better and swifter access to treatment, care, and support; alongside dealing with underlying issues such as housing, poverty, and issues of criminal law, which further marginalise people with a drug problem. This would mean that our approach here was more like Portugal’s. This is achievable if there is a will and consensus to do so.
“The summit has the potential to make a difference to the tragic loss of life we continue to face across Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
The legal framework relating drug use is reserved for the UK Government, but the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Executive have their own strategies to preventing the harms of drug use in areas where responsibility is devolved, including healthcare, criminal justice, housing, and education.