Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scotland looks to a new future of drug control

The Scottish Futures Forum (SFF) has proposed a brave new world where all drugs, both legal and illegal, are controlled and regulated within one simple framework.

In a new report released yesterday the SFF has argued that, ‘By 2025, there should be in place a new approach to regulation in Scotland and elsewhere, based on evidence whereby the regulation of all psychoactive substances, including currently illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines and other legal drugs will be governed by a single framework, which takes into account their different levels of potential risk.’

(Click on report to read)

The SFF was set up by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body in 2005. Its aim is to identify key issues affecting Scotland and stimulate debate between politicians, academics, civic society, and international organizations on how to resolve them.

The Forum’s most recent task was to address how Scotland could reduce the damage done to its population by alcohol and drugs. In doing so the report acknowledged that, ‘our leaders need to be brave and even radical if Scotland is to see significant reductions in harm.’

They are realistic about the fact that people take drugs for a number of reasons and that drug and alcohol related problems will be around for the foreseeable future. A survey carried out by the SFF concludes that, ‘77 per cent of young people surveyed by the Forum were doubtful that Scotland would ever be drug free and only 45 per cent of respondents felt we should even be trying to become drug free.’

In light of this, the SFF has concluded that, ‘There should therefore be a more honest approach to alcohol and drug policy, with the primacy of effort concentrating on prevention, harm reduction measures and treatment, supported by enforcement activities.’

They argue that any new framework should ensure ‘The cost and availability of regulated substances should be decided in tandem with prevention measures and taking into account the prevailing substance culture.’

Danny Kushlick of Transform praised that SFF report saying ‘…it points to the overwhelming and urgent need for policy makers to join up thinking across disciplines and departments to develop a cohesive plan for dealing with the reality of drug use in the 21st century.’

‘To its enormous credit the Futures Forum has… embraced wholeheartedly the taboo area of the prohibition regulation continuum… The fact that it has recognized the counter productivity of an enforcement-led approach and the enormous benefits of a public health approach will put further pressure on unreasonable tough on drugs rhetoric from vote hungry politicians… ‘Overwhelmingly what the report argues for is science over rhetoric and for democratic input above all.’

The SFF report calls for 'consumption rooms', the prescription of heroin rather than methadone and a controlled and regulated legal market for cannabis, amongst other policy options. This is in direct contrast to the Scottish Government's new drugs strategy that was launched last month. Whilst it puts major emphasis on the links between drug use and poverty, it still focuses most of its attention on a criminal-justice led approach and on 'helping people live drug-free lives' which is why the SFF report is so welcome.


Anonymous said...

The report's recommendations haven't a hope in hell of being implemented whilst Alex Salmond is First Minister. Alex Salmond is a smug populist twat and a founder member of Scotland Against Drugs.

Perhaps when the Scottish Government's new strategy fails (again) the voters will ditch the SNP and whoever takes over in Holyrood will look at this report seriously? I dunno. The problem is they always repackage and relaunch what failed the last time, they never seem to get tired of doing this. Transform seem to think that they'll have to try something else when what they're currently doing fails; I'm not sure they will - they seem able to just relaunch the failed policies again and again and again.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read it yet, but from what you say about having a harm-based system of control; fine - but why do we have to wait 17 years for some equality of protection based on evidence as opposed to the life-destroying mumbo-jumbo we endure now?