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Scotland proposes making all drug possession legal

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LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland outlined proposals on Friday to decriminalise the possession of all drugs for personal use saying it would help it tackle the worst drug death rate in Europe.

The devolved government in Edinburgh said the measures should be implemented by the British government in London which, under the UK’s political set-up, decides on matters such as drug regulation.

It said the move would allow people with problematic drug use to be treated and supported rather than criminalised, and give those in recovery a better chance of finding jobs.

“While we know these proposals will spark debate, they are in line with our public health approach and would further our national mission to improve and save lives,” Scotland’s Minister for Drugs Policy, Elena Whitham, said in a statement.

“We are working hard within the powers we have to reduce drug deaths, and while there is more we need to do, our approach is simply at odds with the Westminster legislation we must operate within.”

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ruled out any change, saying: “There are no plans to alter our tough stance on drugs.”

The governing Scottish National Party, which wants Scotland to be an independent country, has also clashed with the British government over a proposed gender recognition reform law.

With 327 deaths per million population, Scotland had Europe’s highest drug death rate in 2020, dwarfing the next highest rate of 85 in Norway, official statistics showed.

While narcotics are illegal in much of the world, some countries have decriminalised various forms of drug possession, with health experts arguing it would allow compulsive drug users to be treated as patients rather than criminals.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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