Scottish Drugs Forum Launch Manifesto

22nd April 2021

Scottish Drugs Forum has today published Drugs: Policy and Aims – A Manifesto for Scotland.

The manifesto describes problem drug use as being ‘neither a lifestyle choice nor a personal failing’.  It recommends that prevention of problem drug use involves addressing its origins and that there should therefore be more support to parents, families and vulnerable young people; improvement in health and other services’ engagement with people in need of support and in addressing Scotland’s social, income and health inequalities that result from poverty. 

In terms of addressing problem drug use the manifesto suggests that the opinions and experiences of people with a drug problem to be the key driver of change.  The manifesto calls for “a recognised, voiced, empowered presence for people with an active drug problem in making decisions that affects their lives.” 

The manifesto calls for a culture change within services so that people who have a drug problem receive the services they want and need. Steps toward this goal in the next parliament would include the development and delivery of workforce development activity that allows staff to identify, challenge and eliminate stigmatising practices and build positive relationships with the people they seek to serve. 

Key recommendations that will reduce harm caused by problem drug use include:

  • Delivering drug consumption facilities across Scotland by first identifying the specific legal issues and circumventing these through the powers of the Lord Advocate 
  • Incentivising engagement with harm reduction services for people who inject drugs by implementing a national rollout of successful local initiatives 
  • Investing in HIV and hepatitis testing for all people who may be at risk through drug use or have a history of drug use and introduce pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) medication for people at particular risk of HIV through use of drugs
  • Developing drug checking services to remove of the most harmful products from the criminal market 
  • Expanding the use of alternatives to custody programmes including, where appropriate, drug testing and treatment orders and community pay back orders with the aim of halving the number of people in prison whose crimes are related to their drug problem 
  • Decriminalising the possession of all drugs – immediately expanding recorded police warnings to all drugs 
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of UK Misuse of Drugs Act which is 50 years old this year and not fit for purpose and considering how the drugs market may be taken out of the hands of organised criminal gangs and regulated. 

In terms of treatment, the key recommendation is to double the number of people in treatment so that 70-80% of the people who could benefit from treatment are actively engaged.

Measures advocated include:

  • Urgent implementation of the new Medication Assisted Treatment Standards – for people with opiate, benzodiazepine and stimulant based drug problems
  • Urgently improving services for women with the aim of reducing drug deaths in this group and ensuring women who are mothers are empowered and supported to parent their children
  • Improving social integration for people by expanding and improving employability supports through the development of meaningful activity, volunteering and employment opportunities

David Liddell CEO of Scottish Drugs Forum says

“Very recent changes including political leadership and investment are very welcome.  We need to build on this and use the current momentum to deliver change.  Key to that is developing the capacity to listen to and involve people with a drug problem in the development of better services and strategy.

“We believe there may be an emerging consensus to address the poverty and stigma which lies at the root of the challenge we face in Scotland.  We can also see that a consensus on the benefit and need to improve treatment is well established – there is reason for cautious optimism in the face of what remains a public health crisis.”

Click here to read the manifesto.


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