Safe consumption rooms, which have been suggested to tackle Scotland’s drug problem, have been described as a “distraction” by a UK Government minister.
Kit Malthouse, the Police and Crime Minister in Whitehall, said international evidence for the success of the projects is “mixed”.
Glasgow City Council has been appealing to the Home Office to allow a safer consumption room in the city, in a bid to deal with the 1,187 drug deaths recorded in Scotland in 2018, pleas which have consistently been rejected by the department.
The facilities would see drug users able to use substances under the supervision of medical professionals, as well as receive support to beat their addictions.
Mr Malthouse, who was in Glasgow on Thursday for a Westminster-led summit on tackling problem drug use just 24 hours after a similar Scottish Government event in the same venue, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “This is a complicated problem and there is no silver bullet solution to this.
“To me, drug consumption rooms are a bit of a distraction. If you look around the world at the research … actually the bulk of people who are dying from consumption need treatment, alongside education, and help and support over a long period.
“And that is really where the game is.
“One of the issues in politics is people do reach for a simple solution, and, while drug consumption rooms have been used around the world, to a variable degree, and the research is mixed, even if we were to start it would take some time to get them in place. They’re quite small-scale and the scale of the problem certainly in Scotland demands a much more assertive approach.
“I think it is a distraction. We’re not convinced yet that the evidence is there.”
The Scottish Government is also in favour of the initiatives, which have been used already in other countries including Canada and Australia.
The conference, run by the devolved administration and held in Glasgow on Wednesday, was told by city council leader Susan Aitken that the facilities were necessary to tackle an “unprecedented spike” in deaths related to drugs.
Despite his dismissal of safer consumption rooms, Mr Malthouse insisted there is a need for “radical thinking”, saying a “three-track approach” must be taken.
He said: “We can have enforcement on supply, we do need to look at treatment that works, and then we have to have an education programme that highlights, particularly to younger people, who are possibly are getting more and more drawn into drugs, what the dangers are.
“It is a much more complicated picture than just clinging to one simple solution.”
The minister added that enforcement should be focused more on suppliers than consumers.
Mr Malthouse also said the issues around drug addiction are “complex”, adding: “Addiction is not confined to one social group.
“We need to be nuanced and sensitive in our approaches to it, rather than taking huge hammers and simple solutions to try to solve what is a complicated human problem.”