Andrew Liddle

Is the SNP serious about decriminalising drugs?

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf (Credit: Getty images)

It is hard to criticise the SNP government’s recent legislative record in Scotland, if only because there isn’t one. Almost every single flagship measure the party has brought forward since the 2021 Scottish parliament election has either been altered, scrapped, blocked, or faces a lengthy legal challenge. More often than not, it has been one or more of these things.

Plans to restrict alcohol advertising have gone ‘back to the drawing board’ following an industry outcry. The Deposit Return Scheme – a recycling scheme for glass and plastic bottles – has been delayed for at least two years, and the company that had been set up to administer it has been rendered insolvent. The Gender Recognition Reform Bill has been ruled unlawful by the UK government and is currently on course for lengthy legal wrangle. Plans to outlaw human activity in large swathes of Scotland’s coastal waters have also been unceremoniously dumped. The list goes on.

This is yet another attempt by the SNP to stoke up a constitutional controversy

Seemingly not content with this disastrous record of trying to do relatively simple things and failing nevertheless, the SNP government has now set its sights on a far more complex and trickier prize – reform of drug laws. We must keep in mind that this is an area that, thankfully, the Scottish government has no actual power over. Drug control laws are currently and will remain for the foreseeable future – indeed, probably now indefinitely – reserved to Westminster.

Nevertheless, the SNP has decided that legalising the possession of drugs is a policy it wants to pursue. If this has any sensible basis, other than just picking another constitutional battle with the Conservative government at Westminster, it is purely to mitigate the SNP’s own administrative failings.

When the SNP government came to power in 2007, there were 455 drug-related deaths recorded in Scotland.

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Written by
Andrew Liddle

Andrew Liddle is a political writer and former adviser to Scottish Labour. He is author of Cheers, Mr Churchill! and Ruth Davidson and the Resurgence of the Scottish Tories.

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