THE Scottish Government has turned to Australia for help as it builds its case to create the UK's first safe drug injecting space – an innovation that could save hundreds of lives.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell has held discussions with officials in the Victorian state government about their decision to open a “fix room” in Melbourne later this year.

Ms Campbell, who is in Australia for the Commonwealth Games in her dual role as sports minister, said the country’s experience provided a “compelling” case for such a facility.

Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde want to set up a supervised space giving heroin addicts sterile needles to help cut hepatitis and HIV infection.

Analysis: Provide a safe consumption room for Glasgow's drug users

An estimated 400 to 500 drug users currently inject in public on the city’s streets, creating additional health worries about contamination from discarded needles.

However, the planned facility – approved in theory 18 months ago – has been stymied by the country’s drugs laws, which are set at Westminster.

The Glasgow room was blocked after Scotland’s Lord Advocate, the head of the Crown Office, said people taking drugs there could not be given immunity from prosecution.

Glasgow councillors last week called unanimously on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to visit the city and see plans for the safe space, as part of a drive to pressure the UK Government into amending the Misuse of Drugs Act.

SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter, the city’s convener for health and social care integration, said the issue might be “politically sensitive”, but it was driven by a “public health emergency”.

Drug deaths in Scotland have more than doubled since 2006, reaching 867 in 2016.

Heroin was implicated in 650 of the fatalities, putting Scotland at the top of the league table for drug deaths in Europe.

Ms Campbell said the experience from Australia was that safe spaces dramatically reduced fatal drug overdoses, reduced used syringes in litter, and were supported by local residents.

She added: “There are drug injection facilities in almost 70 cities around the world, but not one in the UK. That is because of outdated laws that the UK Government must either change or devolve to Scotland.

“There were 867 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year and countless other lives were devastated. How many of those people would still be alive if they were in a safe environment, using clean equipment and with medical professionals on hand?”

There are also hopes to create a safe injecting space in Dundee.

Herald View: Safe injection rooms are an idea whose time has come

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The minister is sensible to be looking and learning. This must now be matched by action.

"Drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal one.

"With drug-related deaths and hospitalisations at a record high we can't afford to dismiss options to prevent these needless tragedies. It is clear that drugs policy needs to dramatically change if we are to save lives, alleviate the burden on our NHS and free up the justice system to focus on the groups producing and dealing illegal drugs.

"Safe injecting and heroin-assisted treatment has been proven to dramatically reduce the levels of harm in other countries. Scotland is already well behind international best practice in tackling this, so measures to take this forward are long overdue.”

Analysis: Provide a safe consumption room for Glasgow's drug users

The Home Office has said there is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms in the UK and it has no plans to introduce them.

It maintains the UK’s approach on drugs is clear.

A spokesperson said: “We must prevent drug use in our communities and support people dependent on drugs through treatment and recovery.”