SCOTLAND’S Citizens Assembly has supported decriminalising some drugs and taxing them to help pay for public services.

The £1million deliberative body, set up last year by Nicola Sturgeon to consider Scotland’s long-term challenges, gave the idea provisional backing at the weekend.

The fledgling proposal, which could cover drugs from cannabis to heroin, comes ahead of the Scottish Government holding a drugs summit in Glasgow tomorrow to help cut record levels of deaths.

The drugs idea was part of the Assembly’s bold platform on tax reform, which could well prove too radical for SNP ministers heading into an election next year.

The Assembly has also said the better off should be forced to pay more, despite Ms Sturgeon ruling out large income tax hikes for top earners in case they leave Scotland.

At the fourth of its six weekend meetings in Clydebank on Saturday, the Assembly again showed it was more willing to embrace tax reforms than Holyrood’s politicians.

Organisers reported “strong support” for increasing taxes on wealth and property, developing a fairer tax system and gearing Scotland’s tax system towards a zero-carbon economy.

Most controversially, there was support for “the decriminalisation of some drugs, with a view to adding to the tax take” and “associated social and public health benefits”.

The idea was considered “very important” to a reformed tax system by 29 per cent of the 100 Assembly members, quite important by 12%, and somewhat important by 17%.

Only 20% of the Assembly did not consider it all important.

One member proposing the change acknowledged it was a “touchy subject”, but deserved consideration nevertheless.

They said decriminalisation could make the country safer for people with addiction, reduce drug deaths, and “move the power away from criminals like drug dealers”.

Besides raising cash by taxing the sale of drugs, as cannabis is taxed in some US states, assembly members said there could be savings to the NHS, and savings to the prison service and legal aid budget because fewer people would be jailed.

“The savings for other sectors and the benefits to people with addiction, which is an illness, could be quite positive,” one member said.

The proposal will now be considered further by the Assembly, with members deciding whether to make it part of their final report to Holyrood and Scottish ministers.

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, who has also called for the decriminalisation, said: “The failure of Scotland’s last substance misuse strategy can be measured in human lives. We can’t let this go on.

“Decriminalisation must be on the agenda going forward. People shouldn’t be sent straight to prison when they’re caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use. Instead treatment and education services should be well-resourced enough to support those with a problem.”

While the classification of drugs is a reserved issue, a Scottish Affairs Select Committee said last year that the Scottish Government “could do more within its existing powers”.