USERS of heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and other illegal drugs would no longer face prosecution under plans agreed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats on Friday.

The party’s conference in Perth overwhelmingly backed a motion calling on the Government “to encourage the de facto decriminalisation of the possession of drugs for personal use”.

Aimed at reducing drug-related deaths, which topped 700 in 2015, the package of measures also included safe injecting rooms and drug-testing facilities to avoid potentially lethal doses.

The motion also said councils should be free to turn a blind eye to drug dealing in pubs and clubs by basing licensing decisions on customer safety rather than helping “the police in enforcing drug laws”.

The policy was moved by Glasgow South’s Ewan Hoyle, who embarrassed the leadership lat year by securing a vote in favour of fracking that was overturned by leader Willie Rennie.

Mr Hoyle said prosecution was not working as a “deterrent effect” and the country had to move from the “dumb enforcement of a dumb law” toward alternative approaches.

He said injection rooms, providing drugs on the NHS and decriminalising drugs would protect communities from crime, protect the addicts and save lives.

He said the rate of drug-related deaths in Scotland was “far and away the worst in Europe”, and there was also a responsibility to help drug users with mental health problems.

“We cannot claim to be the party of mental health if we leave drug users in the shadows.”

David Hannay, a retired GP from Galloway, said providing heroin on the NHS would leave the authorities clear to pursue real criminals, and said more liberal drug laws in Switzerland and Portugal had helped reduce the drug problem there.

He said: “Both drug-related crime and deaths have gone down whereas in Scotland they are rising. We need to change. The war on drugs is not working.”

Ben Lawrie, from Angus and Mearns, said: “This is not a motion that advocates the use of drugs. It is a motion that advocates compassion. It’s time to stop punishing people whose only victims are themselves.”

However Tom Leatherland, from Dunfermline, warned his party that there were many more important issues to debate and pass motions on than decriminalising drugs.

John Waddell, from Aberdeen Central, said: “We support the autonomy of individuals over coercion. There is no autonomy where there is addiction.”

LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said “This policy would prevent unnecessary deaths, alleviate the burden on our NHS and free up the justice system to tackle the people and organised crime groups producing and dealing drugs.

“It is time the Scottish Government got behind this approach.”