HOLYROOD has committed to investigating decriminalising possession for personal use of drugs for the fist time as £18 million of funding was allocated to tackle Scotland's crisis of deaths caused by substance misuse.

MSPs unanimously agreed an amendment by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur backing the "principle" of decriminalisation of minor drugs offences.

The same motion was tabled by his party 14 months ago – when it was only backed by Labour and his own Lib Dem colleagues, with Mr McArthur suggesting the SNP's hesitancy was down to them "keen not to step on the Lord Advocate's toes".

The agreed motion is a bold statement to "work towards diverting people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into treatment and ceasing imprisonment in these cases, helping save lives.”

It also called for the next Scottish Government to “co-ordinate a plan for a Scotland-wide network of heroin-assisted treatment facilities”.

Mr McArthur said support has been shown to "what I believe is an important principle" that "people in possession of drugs for personal use should be diverted into treatment".

READ MORE: Scotland drug deaths: Doctors back decriminalisation and consumption rooms

He added: "Prison is not the place for vulnerable people whose crime is to be gripped by addiction.

"It will always be for the incoming government to take forward its agenda, but such a statement in favour of decriminalisation from the outgoing parliament would, I believe, be difficult to ignore."

The unanimous agreement came at a Holyrood debate that agreed a motion declaring Scotland’s drug deaths a public health emergency, with almost 3,400 deaths due to drug misuse in the last three years.

During the debate, Minister for Drugs Policy, Angela Constance, confirmed allocation of four new funding streams totalling £18 million from £250 million already announced by Nicola Sturgeon to help tackle the drugs deaths emergency over the next five years.

A £5 million communities fund will provide resources to community and third-sector groups to increase capacity for their services, while a £5 million improvement fund will bolster outreach, treatment, rehab and aftercare support for women.

Ministers have also announced a £3 million families and children fund to better support families of those impacted by drug addiction and a £5 million recovery fund for extra residential rehab capacity.

Ms Constance said: “I am pleased we are also able to direct more funding to develop services specifically for women and children. We want to make it easier for women to access treatment by removing any barriers such as a lack of childcare.”

“We recognise residential rehabilitation may not be for everyone which is why we are determined, as part of our national mission, to make sure that people can access whatever treatment is right for them in the right place at the right time.”

Pointing to the expanded rehab capacity fund, Ms Constance said the policy will also "support people financially through residential rehabilitation”.

READ MORE: Action demanded to tackle Scotland's drugs deaths crisis

She added: “We know that because of the lack of clarity in housing benefit guidance, there are some local authorities who do not allow people to retain tenancies funded by housing benefit while they are in rehabilitation.

“We cannot ask people to make impossible choices between their tenancy and their recovery journey. This fund will help ensure that this no longer happens.”

Labour's Neil Findlay, in his last Holyrood speech, told MSPs "we need a revolution in drugs policy".

He added that "if we don't, bodies will pile up higher and higher and higher".

He said: "The Government cut the drugs budget and wondered why deaths rose.

"Working class lives are ending unnecessarily because of a failed drugs policy."

Tory health spokesperson, Donald Cameron called for "braver and bolder policy".