The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – a quote often attributed to the bona fide genius that was Albert Einstein.
If he did say it, I’m sure the great man won’t mind if I give that a little tweak and define madness as doing nothing and expecting things to change. Which is exactly what the Westminster government is guilty of doing over the rising toll of drug deaths. Trust me, there are very few bona fide geniuses in those corridors of power.
And all of you standing up to snarl about this being the Scottish Government’s fault, sit down and wheesht.
Drugs policy is controlled by the UK Government, not Holyrood, and every time Scotland attempts to do something radical and visionary to tackle the appalling toll of drug deaths in this country, Westminster stymies it.
Take, for example, the idea of drug consumption rooms, somewhere drug users can safely take the likes of heroin under medical supervision. These are also known as overdose prevention centres – does what it says on the tin.
Not only can these save lives in the short term, in the longer term, they are a gateway to the help and support addicts – many of them leading chaotic lives – need to get back on an even keel.
A place that saves lives and mends them. We want those, surely?
Lives are being lost – and we can stop it
But, no matter how many times Scotland, backed by a plethora of health and addiction experts, asks: “Can we have overdose prevention centres, please?”, Westminster says no.
It happened just last week, when Westminster’s own Home Affairs Committee said the Scottish Government should, indeed, be allowed to pilot overdose prevention centres, and that drug laws should be devolved to Scotland to make that a reality.
And why did the cross-party committee recommend this? Because, it said, drug misuse should stop being treated as a crime and start being treated as a public health problem. Something the Scottish Government has been saying for literally years.
Copenhagen Overdose Prevention Centre!
Injection area ✅
Smoking area ✅
Drug safety checking ✅
Post injection room ✅
Health room ✅
People dying from overdose ❌
Now in 17 countries, saving lives & connecting to needed services. When will the deaths in the UK be enough for… pic.twitter.com/hyXrTc4Ogo
— Peter Krykant (@PeteKrykant_OPC) August 31, 2023
And, yet, they had barely finished clearing away the tea and biscuits from the committee room when the dread, dead hand of Westminster came down again. Home Office says no.
What it in fact said was: “There is no safe way to take illegal drugs, which devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, and we have no plans to consider this.”
Which is nonsense, given the body of evidence that says overdose prevention centres can provide a safe way to inject and can offer a path out of that very devastation, ruination and damage.
A pilot overdose prevention centre in Glasgow could show the way
But that doesn’t chime with the Tory “hang ‘em, flog ‘em” mindset that addicts are criminals.
Pressure, however, is mounting on Westminster to stop mouthing dogma and think about this. Lives are being lost. There is a way to stop that.
That might also be one small part of the solution to the drug scourge, not just in Scotland but across the UK. A pilot overdose prevention centre in Glasgow could show the way. Surely saying yes to that doesn’t take an Einstein level of genius?
Scott Begbie is a journalist and editor, formerly for The Press and Journal and Evening Express