A national body set up to combat drug use has urged Scotland’s top law officer to give the green light to plans for a safe consumption unit for addicts.

The Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) believes Lord Advocate James Wolffe should “reconsider his legal judgement” on a so-called fix room in Glasgow on account of rising drug-related deaths.

The charity’s chief executive, David Liddell, believes Wolffe has the power to ensure drugs users and staff at any facility are not prosecuted.

Official figures show there were 934 drug-related deaths in 2017, up from 455 ten years earlier. New statistics, which will be published later this year, are expected to show the number has risen to around 1,100.

Glasgow has an estimated 13,600 problem drug users and figures published last week revealed a ten-fold increase in HIV infection among this part of the population.

In 2016, against a backdrop of rising deaths, proposals emerged for the introduction of a safe drug consumption facility.

The aim of the unit was to give addicts a safe environment to inject under supervision, as well as providing advice.

Although drugs policy is reserved to Westminster, campaigners believed at the time that the Lord Advocate could have given permission for the initiative.

However, in a letter to stakeholders in 2017, Wolffe wrote:

“While I can make decisions as to whether or not a criminal offence will be prosecuted, I cannot alter the basic quality of the activity as criminal in law. Nor, for that matter, can anything I say or do affect the question of civil liability.”

He added that making any facility lawful would require an an exemption from reserved drugs legislation:

“The question of whether or not to amend the Regulations, or to give the Scottish Government power to amend the Regulations, in order to support the proposed SCDF would accordingly be a matter for the UK Government.”

Amber Rudd, at that point Home Secretary, refused to back a relaxation of the drugs laws, a move that appeared to close to the door on the creation of a facility.

However, the SDF believes Wolffe’s legal analysis is wrong and the charity wants him to think again, in an attempt to stem the rise of drug deaths.

Liddell, one of the country’s leading voices on drug misuse, believes the Lord Advocate could effectively give immunity to users and staff in by way of issuing a “letter of comfort”.

He told the Herald on Sunday: “The Lord Advocate’s decision not to allow a drug consumption room in Glasgow was met with dismay from the sector in 2017. We had anticipated that this would be allowed through a ‘letter of comfort’ from the Lord Advocate.

“This decision meant that for the scheme to be allowed to operate there would need to be changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which would require UK Government support or the devolution of these powers. It is evident that this will not happen and therefore there remains a stand off between the UK and Scottish Governments.”

He added: “In the face of a similar crisis and HIV outbreak which have worsened since 2017, we would urge the Lord advocate to reconsider his legal judgement on the grounds of human rights and ‘the right to life’.”

Liddell added that there is a precedent for issuing a comfort letter in the drugs field.

He said this approach was previously used to allow the supply of the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone, to vulnerable people.

He said: “The letter grants immunity to pharmacists who supply naloxone without prescription to staff working at services with a high rate of overdoses."

Green MSP John Finnie said: "If we're to match the rhetoric on treating drug addictions as a public health issue - and the most recent evidence on blood-borne virus infections in Glasgow shows it clearly is - then something has to give in order to allow vital safe consumption facilities to operate lawfully.

"I certainly welcome the proposal for the Lord Advocate to offer necessary legal comfort. But it remains clear that to remove any risk of legal consequences - criminal or civil - the UK Government must remain under pressure to drop its intransigence on the issue."

A Crown Office spokesperson said: “There are complex issues surrounding Safe Drug Consumption Facilities (SDCF), and in jurisdictions where they have been established these issues have been addressed by legislation to provide a comprehensive legal framework.

“In order to render a SDCF lawful, it would be necessary to obtain a further exemption from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The subject matter of this Act is reserved to the UK Government.

“While the Lord Advocate can make decisions as to whether or not a criminal offence will be prosecuted, the Lord Advocate cannot alter the basic quality of the activity as criminal in law nor affect the question of civil liability.

“The Lord Advocate was of the view that the public interest objective is a health rather than justice one. Scottish Government Health Officials therefore offered to meet with the HSCP to discuss the proposal, its objectives, and how these might best be met.”