THE head of a leading alcohol and drugs charity has warned of more drugs deaths after the Lord Advocate announced he would not back a safer injecting facility in Glasgow.

The ruling, by Scotland's most senior prosecutor means the 'shooting gallery', which was set to be the first in the UK, cannot go ahead as planned.

The centre planned by the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) depended on the authorities tolerating possession near the city centre venue so those visiting to take drugs in a safe setting would not be prosecuted.

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However the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, has told the HSCP the issue is of public health, not justice and there will be no change in prosecution policy.

Andrew Horne, Director of Addaction Scotland, said the Lord Advocate's position was "confused" as tolerance zones already exist in the vicinity of Scoland's many needle exchanges

"We are dismayed and very disappointed with Lord Wolffe’s ruling, he said. "With respect, we think the logic of the ruling is at best confused and certainly not based in the reality of what we see every day in treatment services, or the reality of previous rulings and policing across Scotland and the UK," Mr Horne said.

"When we brought in needle exchanges we effectively created “tolerance” zones as 99 per cent of people using such services are invariably in possession of drugs."

Substantial evidence demonstrates drug consumption rooms can improve the health of some drug users and improve public safety in towns and cities, he added. "The plan to implement safer injecting rooms was aimed at attracting and engaging those people most at risk of overdose and potentially death.

"Drug deaths have reached unprecedented proportions and each death is a heart-breaking tragedy for family and friends."

He said Glasgow should work with the Scottish Government and the Police to keep the pilot scheme alive. "Addaction urges the Scottish Government, the Glasgow HSCP and Police Scotland to find a Scottish solution so that we can pilot schemes that will ultimately save lives.”

The pilot project would allow users to bring street drugs purchased away from the premises and take them in a supervised setting in a safe way. The plan was also to offer heroin assisted treatment (HAT) providing prescribed medical heroin to a small number of drug users who had exhausted other options.

But it relied on prosecutors being willing to accept a 'tolerance zone' in the neighbourhood of the facility where the authorities would turn a blind eye to people on their way there in possession of drugs.

The Lord Advocate, in a letter to the HSCP, said aspects of the scheme are legal – HAT can be provided within the law currently – and said the council should explore those rather than seeking legal permission.

The Herald understands officials had concerns that a change in prosecution policy would effectively sanction drug use and give all those with a dependency a way to evade prosecution if caught in possession.

While the Lord Advocate has invited the scheme's backers to discuss their ideas with the Scottish Government, drugs law is reserved to Westminster. Meanwhile although the HAT treatment proposal could go ahead, those behind the safer injecting pilot scheme have always insisted that the scheme needs to go forward as a whole for the centre to work. They have also struggled to find a suitable building for the pilot project, which was intended to open for business next year.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "The Lord Advocate has considered the proposals and is of the view that the public interest objective is a health rather than justice one.

"Scottish Government Health Officials will therefore offer to meet with the HSCP to discuss the proposal, its objectives, and how these might best be met."

A spokesman for the HSCP said: “We have received a response from the Lord Advocate and we will be taking some time to study and consider his opinion.

“Information in relation to the response will be reported to committee in due course.”