A Labour government would not decriminalise drugs, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Asked if he would change or devolve legislation on illicit substances, Mr Starmer said he would not.
He suggested a recent announcement by Scotland’s Lord Advocate on diversion from prosecution of those caught in possession of small amounts of drugs needed to be further thought through.
The Scottish Government wants to treat the country’s drugs death rate as a public health matter, including the launch of safe consumption rooms.
Scotland has the highest rate of drug-induced death in Europe.
A total of 1,339 deaths last year were attributed to drugs, up from 1,264 — an increase of 5.9% from 2019.
Dundee has one of the highest drug death rates in Scotland, after 57 people died from drugs in 2020 — a rate of 38.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
Mr Starmer accused the SNP of using independence to distract from their government’s “appalling” drug death rate, slips in education and child protection legislation.
‘I would not be introducing that’
Asked whether he supports the Lord Advocate’s advice, Mr Starmer said: “The Lord Advocate has set up principles and we have not seen the detail yet, which will come out shortly.
“I do not think what happens in Scotland should be a general application across the UK.
“One of the benefits of devolution is to allow each of the nations to look separately in context to the challenges they have.
“But if I was prime minister of the UK I would not be introducing that.
“But the benefits of devolution allows Scotland to look at that issue.
“I’d like to see the detail of what the Lord Advocate is saying.
“These are very broad principles in terms of the Lord Advocate’s position and I would certainly like to see the detail of it.
“I’ve drawn up these prosecutorial before and I know there is a lot in the detail that matters…where is the discretion, what are the exceptions , what happens in circumstances x,y,z and these are all of the unanswered questions.
“In my experience in prosecutorial policy, when you look at the detail it is much more complicated than the overall principles.”
Starmer ‘doesn’t understand Scotland’
An SNP spokesperson said: “Once again, Keir Starmer shows how little he actually knows about anything going on in Scotland. The people of Scotland had their say on our record in government – and our ambitious plans to lead Scotland through the pandemic and into a sustainable recovery – in May’s election.
“The SNP recorded its highest ever share of the constituency vote, while Labour slumped to its worst ever result.
“If Keir Starmer wants to know what poor leadership looks like, maybe he should reflect on the fact that despite being in opposition to the most shambolic, callous, crony-infested Westminster government in living memory, he is still trailing Boris Johnson’s Tories in the opinion polls.
“The Labour party continue to allow the people of Scotland to be controlled by Westminster and by a Tory party it did not vote for — and until they recognise the democratic right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future then Labour will continue to slip into the abyss.”