Charities and activists support the Scottish Government’s calls for the UK government to reform the drug laws or give them the power to implement reforms

Charities and activists support the Scottish Government’s calls for the UK government to reform the drug laws or give them the power to implement reforms

LONDON (07 July 2023) – the Scottish government today published a groundbreaking document calling for the decriminalisation of drug possession offences, the scaling up of harm reduction initiatives, and the end to excluding people with drug dependency from equality legislation to address the discrimination they face in their everyday lives.

Release welcomes the Scottish Governments’ commitment to an evidence-based approach to drugs. At a time when drug-related deaths are at their highest, not only in Scotland but across the UK, it is imperative that policies and laws are reformed to save lives. Decriminalisation of drug possession is the legal framework of at least 30 countries globally.[1] Countries such as Portugal and the Czech Republic that ended criminal sanctions for possession of drugs and have invested in harm reduction responses such as those that the Scottish Government proposes, have seen significantly lower rates of drug related deaths compared to the UK.

We also welcome the commitment to supervised drug consumption facilities, the expansion of drug checking and heroin assisted treatment, and the plans to implement policies which ensure people who are experiencing drug dependency have the same protections from discrimination as others with long-term and serious health conditions.

The plans have also been supported by a coalition of charities and NGOs who have come together to sign a statement supporting these proposals (link here) and community activists, those with living and lived experience (attached to email).

Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director of Release, welcomed the report stating that “All four nations of the UK are in the middle of a public health crisis, with drug related deaths at an all-time high in all countries. The Scottish Government should be applauded for putting forward policies that could literally save lives. The UK government must act now by either reforming our outdated laws or give Scotland the power to do so. Countries across the world are ending criminal sanctions for possession of all drugs and others are moving towards legalising and regulating cannabis. The UK looks backward compared to what is happening across the Americas, Europe and parts of Asia”.

The report titled “A Caring, Compassionate and Human Rights Informed Drug Policy for Scotland” also sensibly calls for a debate on regulation of drugs, such as cannabis, stating that the evidence from Canada, Uruguay and the 20+ US states that have legalised this substance is crucial to understanding what works.




Note to the editor: 

Release is the UK centre of expertise on drugs and drug laws, providing free and confidential specialist services to professionals, the public, and people who use drugs. Release believes in a just and fair society where drug policies should reduce the harms associated with drugs, and where those who use drugs are treated based on principles of human rights, dignity and equality.


Niamh Eastwood – - 07900 002 632