THE UK Government’s unwillingness to engage with the Scottish Government’s plans for drug reform “undermine the union,” the SNP has warned. 

On Friday, Scottish drugs minister Elena Whitham unveiled a new policy paper which made a number of radical proposals, including the decriminalisation of possession for personal use, and legislative changes to allow supervised drug consumption facilities.

The proposals were rejected by No 10 within an hour of being announced.

READ MORE: Scottish Government proposes decriminalisation of all drugs

During Levelling Up questions in the Commons, the SNP’s Chris Stephens asked Michael Gove to be the “grown-up in his side of the room” and engage fully with the proposals from his colleagues in Edinburgh. 

He pointed out that Mr Gove - who has responsibility for intergovernmental relations - had said a number of “interesting things” on drug policy.

“The Secretary of State is on record saying he thinks public health measures which are backed by strong scientific evidence, which follow the lead of the doctors, the clinicians, we should look seriously at them. 

“Drug consumption rooms and decriminalisation of possession of small quantities of drugs have been proven to work throughout the world, and have now been proposed by the Scottish Government. 

“So does the Secretary of State accept that the outright rejection we saw from UK Government at the weekend, out of hand, undermines the Scottish Government, undermines those campaigners and those who help drug users and undermines the union?”

The Conservative minister said he did not accept that, but that Mr Stephens had raised a “very, very serious question.” 

“We both know that drug deaths in Scotland are running at an unacceptably high level. And there is no single answer to dealing with that problem. 

“But I do believe as was outlined very clearly by politicians from both the government and indeed the principal opposition party, that the Scottish Government's proposals are the wrong proposals at the wrong time.” 

READ MORE: UNSPUN: Westminster must not prevent Scotland decriminalising drugs

Mr Stephens told MPs that the heads of all 31 UN agencies have called for possession decriminalisation and more than 30 countries have made changes, which have cut deaths and incarceration. 

“So there's no reasonable rational evidence cause for the UK Government or indeed the Labour Party for rejecting the proposals out of hand,” he added. 

”Can I ask him seriously, in his role as intergovernmental relations to what will the Scottish Government, to be the grown-up in his side of the room and engage with the Scottish Government and those drug campaigners?

Mr Gove replied: “This is a both complex and also challenging and heartbreaking issue. And I do believe that it is right that the governments work together with the NHS, with law enforcement and with others in order to deal with the challenge. 

“But I believe that the specific proposals for decriminalisation of possession that are being put forward are not the best way forward.”

READ MORE: Spike in the number of women dying in drug related deaths in Scotland

The policy paper produced by the Scottish Government said decriminalisation would free “individuals from the fear of accessing treatment and support, reducing drug-related harms and, ultimately, improving lives”.

However, as drug laws remain reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government is limited in what it can do. 

The drug reforms were also ruled out by Labour, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves telling journalists during a visit to Scotland on Friday: “The short answer is no.

“I don’t think this sounds like a good policy.”

Announcing the proposals, Ms Whitham said the “war on drugs has failed”.

She added: “That’s a fact. I don’t think we can dispute that.

“Our current drug law does not stop people from using drugs, it does not stop people from experiencing the harm associated and, critically, it does not stop people from dying.

“In fact, I would say today here, that criminalisation increases the harms people experience. Criminalisation kills.”

Figures published last year revealed that 1,330 people died drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2021.

Scotland’s fatalities were 4.9 times higher than England and Wales, and 3.8 times higher than the next worst European nation, Norway