Scotland’s top prosecutor has green-lit trials of drug consumption rooms, a measure long supported by campaigners to cut overdose rates.
The move means plans for a drug consumption room in Glasgow will now go ahead.
No such trial has been confirmed in Aberdeen or elsewhere in the north-east.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, who heads the prosecution service, said she would advise police it would “not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users” for possessing drugs in such a facility.
We know from evidence from more than 100 facilities worldwide that Safer Drug Consumption Facilities work.
– SNP drugs minister Elena Whitham
Also known as overdose prevention centres, the facilities allow people to inject drugs like heroin under supervision.
Campaigners say this could help cut the number of overdose deaths, with trained staff on hand to provide emergency care.
Drug deaths across Highlands and north-east
Aberdeen recorded 42 drug related deaths in 2022, down from a decade-long high of 62 the previous year.
A decrease was also recorded in Aberdeenshire, where the rate of drug related deaths is the lowest in Scotland.
Highland Council area reported a slight year-on-year increase in 2022 – with the number of drug deaths rising by seven to 42.
In a statement on Monday, Ms Bain said it would not be appropriate for her to “sign off” on the opening of a drug consumption room.
While powers over the Misuse of Drugs Act are reserved to Westminster, the Lord Advocate is responsible for setting prosecution policy for all crimes.
Ms Bain said: “Prosecution policy is for me alone to set and this policy, and the consequences which flow from it, have been considered deeply and thoroughly.
“The requested statement will not extend to any criminal offences other than possession of controlled substances, contrary to section 5(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
“It does not amount to an exclusion zone whereby a range of criminality is tolerated.”
She said it was important Police Scotland would still have the ability to police any facility and ensure the safety of those using it and the wider community.
Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham said: “I welcome the position the Lord Advocate has taken.
“Glasgow authorities may now progress their proposal to set up a facility which can operate within the existing legal framework. While the service would still be limited to some extent, due to the reserved Misuse of Drugs Act, we are confident it would save lives.
“This is not a silver bullet. But we know from evidence from more than 100 facilities worldwide that Safer Drug Consumption Facilities work.
“It is now time to see this approach piloted in Scotland.”