Edinburgh council to consider trial of drug consumption room to tackle drug deaths

The city council is to investigate the feasibility of running an official trial of a drug consumption room in the Capital in a bid to cut deaths from overdoses.

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There is currently no legislation in Scotland for licensing the rooms – also referred to as overdose prevention centres – where drug-users are supervised and have access to clean needles. But drugs campaigner Peter Krykant has operated a mobile service in a converted ambulance on the streets of Glasgow and Labour MSP Paul Sweeney is currently consulting on a member’s bill which would legalise consumption rooms.

The full council agreed to to work with partners in health and criminal justice to provide a report to the policy and sustainability committee on the feasibility of supporting an official Overdose Prevention Centre trial in Edinburgh.

The move was proposed by the Lib Dems in a debate on a motion from SNP City Centre councillor Finlay McFarlane calling for the licensing board to consider requiring bar workers and door staff to be trained in administering overdose-antidote Naloxone.

Corstorphine/Murrayfield Lib Dem councillor Euan Davidson said Scotland’s drugs deaths were three times the European average and argued a different approach was needed.

He said: "A small group of dedicated activists have been quietly implementing one of those solutions – overdose prevention centres. These are places where drug users can consume in a safe and healthy environment. This eliminates the risk of overdose and ensures that clean paraphernalia is provided, reducing the risk of blood-borne infections.

“I appreciate there is conflicting legal advice on this issue, but we're asking officers to look at the Glasgow project and work taking place in Dundee and explore what opportunities might exist for us to pilot that work here.”

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Campaigner Peter Krykant operated a drugs consumption room in a converted ambulance. Picture: John Devlin.

Earlier the council heard a deputation from the Edinburgh branch of the Young Communist League. Branch secretary Dan Roantree welcomed the Naloxone motion as “a first step in the marathon of tackling drug deaths”.

He said drug use had to be viewed as a medical issue not a criminal one. “What we need is safe consumption facilities in Edinburgh – places where those who suffer from addiction can go to safely administer drugs in a supervised and sterile environment.”

The word “gateway” was sometimes used in criticism of consumption rooms. But he said: “With trained professionals standing by, they can indeed by a gateway to access homeless accommodation, a gateway to start therapy and a gateway to a new life.”

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And he noted that Labour, the SNP, Greens and Lib Dems had all previously supported drug consumption rooms.

Pentland Hills Labour councillor Stephen Jenkinson said it was a national disgrace that Scotland had the highest drug deaths in Europe. “Edinburgh can and should play its part in showing leadership and working closely with experts and partner agencies to provide both long-term solutions and long-term fixes to this tragic problem.”

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said: “If we get to the stage where we can legally have consumption rooms I think we would support that.”

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