Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, SDLP, UUP, Sinn Fein, DUP,and BNP manifestos on drug policy

In the final part of our review of election manifesto drug policy commitments we consider the offerings from  some of the other parties with smaller (or no) parliamentary representation.(see previous posts Labour, LibDems, Conservatives and Greens)

  • The Scottish Nationalist Party

In the 2010 SNP manifesto the only drug policy mention is in the health chapter:
A healthier Scotland

We are also taking action to improve health, prevent ill-health and tackle health inequalities. We are acting to tackle obesity and promote physical activity. We are also acting to tackle the health impact of tobacco, with legislation to restrict cigarette displays and remove vending machines. and we are investing more than ever in rehabilitation so that drug addicts can kick the habit.
This is somewhat less than the proposals in 2005. It is not obvious why the manifesto profile of drug policy has changed:

Damaging Drugs
We want to reduce the damage that drugs do to the individual and to society as a whole. But words are not enough; real action is required. We will take firm action against drug dealers but we will also tackle the poverty and exclusion that contribute to the high levels of damaging drug use in some of our communities.
We will also do more to help those who want to come off drugs. Long waiting lists for places on rehabilitation programmes make it much more difficult to tackle the problems drugs cause in our communities. That is why we would give people trapped by the misery of drug addiction access to rehabilitation facilities within 3 months. We would also introduce a programme of financial assistance for community-based groups to provide aftersupport to reduce the risk of relapse, and practical help and support for the families of recovering addicts.
We also recognise the damage that alcohol misuse can do to the health and well-being of individuals,and society, and would offer more practical support to help tackle this problem.

  • Plaid Cymru

Plaid also has relatively little on drug policy in their 2010 manifesto, only including these three unrelated commitments: 
"We also oppose the privatisation of back-to-work services and the compulsory drug testing of claimants."

"We call for a national community safety strategy for Wales, more drug rehabilitation places and programmes, drug and alcohol education in every school in Wales and better amenities for young people in their communities. We call for a minimum price per unit of alcohol, initially set at 50p, along with stricter controls on alcohol advertising and marketing."

"Plaid Cymru calls for an immediate Military Well-Being Act to promote and safeguard the physical and mental health and wellbeing of military personnel. This includes ongoing after-care, legal advice and counselling support for veterans and their families, as well as improved compensation, housing, healthcare and treatment for alcohol and drug abuse."
 In their 2005 manifesto, in the health section, a non-specific pledge:
We need to tackle the causes of ill-health. These include not only long-standing causes such as poverty and unhealthy working and housing conditions, but increasingly also the misuse of drugs, lack of exercise, and exploitative marketing to young  children.
and in the 'Crime' section, committments to:
  • More drug rehabilitation places and programmes, partly funded from confiscated drugs money
  • Drugs and alcohol education in every school in Wales
  • Better amenities for young people in their communities to help counter the attractions of town centre binge drinking
  • Legislation to hold pub and club owners responsible for policing and health costs rising from their customers’ behaviour
  • Stricter controls on how drinks are advertised and marketed, including health warnings 
and one of the 'people's contract' pledges:

"We will press for greatly expanded provision of treatment, counselling, and rehabilitation for people suffering from drug addiction"

  • UK Independence Party

UKIP's Nigel Farage vocally supported drug decriminalisation on BBC's Question Time recently, but the UKIP 2010 manifesto does not contain any reference to drug policy (although crime policies  include scrapping the CPS and Human Rights Act). The UKIP media spokesperson informed Transform via Twitter that having a Royal Commission on drug policy is official policy. 

  • Social Democratic and Labour Party

The SDLP 2010 manifesto offers the following under the specific heading 'Action on Drugs', in the 'Safe, Shared Society' chapter:

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is out of date. It is failing to provide our young people with adequate protection both from illegal drugs and ‘legal highs’.

It places a duty on the state to prove a drug is dangerous before it is banned, yet pharmaceutical companies have to prove drugs are safe before they can be sold.

The SDLP wants a new misuse of drugs bill which will:
  • Allow Ministers to temporarily classify new drugs and drug groups until they are proven safe.
  • Review the role of the advisory council on the misuse of drugs with a view to extending its powers and influence over education and health promotion.
  • Devolve powers to Northern Ireland.
  • Strengthen statutory support for drug prevention and rehabilitation schemes.
The call for devolved drug policy is repeated later in the manifesto.

  • Ulster Unionists

At time of writing we were unable to find the 2010 Ulster Unionist manifesto. The 2005 manifesto contains no reference to drugs or drug policy (beyond a commitment to the ban on smoking in public places). Given the alliance with the Conservative party the assumption is that policy will be in line with Conservative commitments (this will be updated if not the case).

  • Sinn Fein

At time of writing no manifesto was available for the 2010 Westminster elections. The Sinn Fein official drug policy document from 2004 is here  and a document on the 2009-2012 drug strategy is available here. Both are solidly harm reduction oriented. Other recent election manifestos are here. Note; Sinn Fein MPs do not attend the UK parliament

  • Democratic Unionist Party

The DUP 2010 manifesto  has very little on drug policy:

 In the 'Armed Forces' chapter:

"All ex-service personnel should be given comprehensive advice about mental health conditions and information on where assistance can be accessed promptly.More effective prevention and early intervention measures must be introduced to tackle mental health conditions and drug and alcohol abuse." 

And in the crime and policing chapter:

"Other important priorities are domestic abuse, knife crime and alcohol and drug-related offences"

  • British National Party 

At time of writing the British National Party manifesto did not appear to be online, so below are the drug policy commitments from the BNP 2005 manifesto (pdf)

 Criminals should be made to serve their full sentences, with time added for bad behaviour. The only way out of prison ‘early’ should be a maximum 20% reduction in return for a clear demonstration of the acquisition of genuinely useful skills, or full rehabilitation in the case of drug addicts, whereupon Parole Boards should have the power to release such model prisoners, tagged and under tight restrictions doing restorative work within the community.

Given the role of drugs and addiction involved in so much crime, the present pitiful provision of a mere 2,500 drug rehabilitation places nationwide is a false economy, as well as a national shame. We would oversee a one hundred-fold increase in this figure, to be in place within six months of coming to office. Thestaff and money for this vital social service and anti-crime measure will be provided from cuts made in various of the parasitic and useless public sector jobs identified later in this Manifesto.

While every effort will be made to help addicts to recover, individuals convicted of the importation and large-scale dealing of hard drugs will face the death penalty. British National Party General Election
Charity commission guidelines on strict neutrality in elections prevent us from saying what we think of the BNP. On drug policy specifically however, their positions on sentencing are not dissimilar to much mainstream tabloid punitive populism, and the call for more rehab also in line with most of the other parties, even if the 100 fold increase in provision (the Tories offered a mere 10-fold increase in 2005) gives the appearance of pure rhetorical invention rather than careful calculation.  The death penalty call takes the punitive populist line to its extreme; needless to say there is no evidence from countries that actually use the death penalty that it is an effective deterrent, and it is also unambiguously illegal under both EU and International Law (withdrawal from the EU is BNP policy, but not from the UN).

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