On July 7, 2023, the Government of Scotland issued a paper entitled "A Caring, Compassionate and Human Rights Informed Drug Policy for Scotland." The paper "outlines what a progressive, evidence-based drugs policy would look like with public health and the reduction of harm as its underlying principles."
According to the paper:
"In January 2021, Scotland’s then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a National Mission to reduce drug deaths and improve lives, to be spearheaded by a dedicated Minister for Drugs Policy.11 This is supported by an additional investment of £250 million over the five-year life of the Parliament.12
"The Mission takes a holistic, public health response to the challenge. This includes mobilising an emergency response, focusing on harm reduction and preventing fatal overdoses; reducing risk by improving treatment and recovery services; and reducing vulnerability by addressing the social determinants of health by improving access to quality housing, social security, employment and social connection. It also recognises the need to address stigma, respond to the voices of people with lived and living experience and support a resilient workforce.
"Approaching this issue from a public health, and not a criminal justice, perspective is key. The rise in drug deaths has been significant enough to contribute to the fall in life expectancy in Scotland. From 2017-2019 to 2019-2021, drug misuse reduced life expectancy by 5.9 weeks for males and 2.5 weeks for females.13 Drug use disorders pose a sizable threat to Scotland’s population health and wellbeing, and were the third leading cause of health loss in the most recent Scottish Burden of Disease Study, surpassed only by ischaemic heart disease and Alzheimer’s and dementias in healthy life lost as a result of disability and premature death (number of Disability Adjusted Life Years), (Figure 1).14"
Among its recommendations, the paper endorses expanded harm reduction services and the decriminalization of simple possession of drugs:
"This paper argues how the reform of the UK’s drug laws offers an opportunity to contribute to a public health approach. It begins with a summary of how drug laws can affect drug harms, before calling for immediate legislative changes to support harm reduction measures; arguing for decriminalisation of possession for personal supply; and examining the opportunities for a future debate on strict regulated markets."