This past week, Glasgow City Council has again raised the issue of providing a safe consumption room for the city’s drug users.

I have stated on several occasions that I support this. The council wants to provide this facility to address drug deaths and high levels of HIV infection that they say are almost solely related to problematic drug use.

At a national level, we have a major issue and too many people die of drug-related deaths each year.

This past week I have been in Australia, a country facing similar issues. Between 2012 and 2016, heroin-related deaths in Melbourne, Victoria, doubled.

As the Victoria state government grappled with what to do, they looked 450 miles north to Sydney and the compelling results of that city’s drug consumption room.

A safe injecting centre opened in Sydney’s Kings Cross, an area known for chronic drug misuse, in 2001. Over the next 10 years, there was an 80% drop in ambulance calls to the area, the number of used needles and syringes littered in public halved, and 78% of local residents said they supported the centre.

In Melbourne last year, the Victorian Government approved a safe injecting facility for the city, which will open in North Richmond neighbourhood this June.

This week I contacted Victorian Government representatives to speak with them about the centre and about their wider approach to substance misuse.

During a very positive discussion, what struck me was how similar the Victorian approach is to the Scottish Government’s.

Firstly, like us, Victoria is taking a health-led response. And although their challenges are with different demographics to Scotland, they also seek to provide support to deal with addiction, and with wider issues, such as housing and employment.

Secondly, the Victorians looked at the evidence for what works and what will reduce deaths - not for what sits easily with the status quo or what avoids criticism. I have been clear that I want us to take measures that are based on evidence and to accept that this might include approaches that make some people uncomfortable at first.

Which brings me to the third point. The Victorian Government worked with the local community to get their views and to also explain the benefits of a safe injecting centre to them. There is often anxiety around ideas like this. But what we’ve learned from Sydney’s experience is that people’s views change when they see the results: in Kings Cross seven out of ten businesses and almost eight of ten residents now support the injecting centre. It is noticeable that in Melbourne, some locals have been actively calling for the centre there.

But more compelling is that drug injecting centres save lives. Staff at the Sydney centre have supervised more than 930,000 injections and managed almost 6,000 overdoses without a single death. Closer to home, a similar centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, has dealt with 700 overdoses and saved every single person.

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?

We will continue to do what we can with the current legislation and circumstances. But we should have the powers to take all the action needed to save people and help them turn their lives around.

Minister for Public Health and Sport, Aileen Campbell