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Alcohol & Other Drugs, News & Media

Cranstoun Response to the Lord Advocate Statement on OPC Pilot

Posted on: 11 September, 2023

Cranstoun welcomes the statement from the Lord Advocate of Scotland following a request related to prosecution policy in relation to the piloting of a safer drugs consumption facility (overdose prevention centre / OPC) in the city of Glasgow.

The statement indicates that the Lord Advocate would provide prosecution policy guidance for operational police highlighting that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute someone using the facility who might be in possession of controlled substances, potentially paving the way to the first sanctioned overdose prevention centre in the UK.

The news comes just a week after the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended the pilot scheme, and just a few weeks after a Scottish Government report backed OPCs to reduce the tragic levels of drugs in Scotland.

The statement finds that an OPC could operate within the existing legal framework, aside from section 5 (2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, whereby people in possession would be in contravention. However, the prosecution policy guidance would create scope for the operation of such a scheme, without people using the service being arrested. This is however just guidance, and would require collaboration with operational police to ensure that this guidance is carried out in all relevant cases.

Glasgow has one of the highest rates of drug deaths in the country and the implementation of an OPC has backing across the political spectrum in Scotland.

The announcement relates to a specific request put to the Lord Advocate and does not relate to the implementation of overdose prevention centres beyond a single pilot scheme that has long been sought after. Cranstoun strongly welcomes news of this announcement from the Lord Advocate, and we have great hope that this guidance could pave the way to a wider roll out of such schemes.

There is currently a feasibility study being drafted for consideration of an OPC in Edinburgh City Centre, with a motion already passed at the City Chamber, and Cranstoun received the backing of 28 Members of Scottish Parliament for the piloting of an OPC in Dundee – a city with one of the highest death rates in the UK.

Cranstoun recommends that the Scottish Government urgently seek further guidance from the Lord Advocate to ascertain whether this prosecution policy guidance could be expanded beyond one particular area, and beyond one particular model of OPC. This would allow for a comparative evaluation of more than one model, one geographic location and one service provider. In short, further legal guidance that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute people using proposed services in Edinburgh and Dundee would advance the ability to move quickly to implement these evidence based centres to reduce harm, and preventable death, beyond Glasgow.

This news is particularly timely given the rise of synthetic, potent opioids which are being reported across the United Kingdom. We urge the UK government to follow this lead, and consider implementation of OPCs in overdose hotspots across the country.

Overall, this is a major step towards implementing harm reduction policies that will continue to turn the tide on the horrific levels of drug deaths which exist in Scotland and the UK as a whole.

This is an important moment on the journey towards evidence based policies, but there is much more work to be done and we must continue to push for further initiatives that are proven to reduce the harm drugs cause to individuals and society.

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