SNP ministers are "actively exploring" new proposals for drug consumption rooms after Scotland's top law officer appeared to open the door to their introduction.

Dorothy Bain QC, who was appointed Lord Advocate earlier this year, said "the question of what is in the public interest" could be looked at again.

Drug consumption rooms allow users to take substances such as heroin under medical supervision and with access to clean equipment and support services.

Supporters argue they could help tackle Scotland's appalling drug-related death rate.

There were 1,339 drug deaths in Scotland last year, a new record and by far the highest rate recorded by any country in Europe.

The previous Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, was asked about drug consumption rooms by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership in 2017.

It wanted assurances that the health board, council, staff and partner organisations would not face prosecution if such a facility was set up.

Mr Wolffe concluded it wasn't possible to grant this request.

However, giving evidence to Holyrood's Criminal Justice Committee, Ms Bain said it was "important to see the distinction between what James Wolffe was asked and what could be asked". 

She added: "So the question of what is in the public interest would be something that could be looked at again.

"But it would have to be looked at again in very careful circumstances, where a very detailed set of proposals are brought and we're confident that they are based on sound evidence."

Ms Bain told MSPs a "precise, detailed, specific" proposal "underpinned by evidence" and which had support "would require a fresh consideration by me as Lord Advocate".

She referenced the "undoubted crisis that we face in relation to the number of drug deaths in Scotland". 

Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker asked Deputy First Minister John Swinney about the comments in Holyrood. 

Filling in for Nicola Sturgeon, who is at COP26 in Glasgow, Mr Swinney said: "The Lord Advocate's statement confirms a new opportunity for new proposals to be considered regarding safer drug consumption facilities. 

"We've been clear on the benefits that safer drug consumption facilities would bring to reducing drug-related deaths in Scotland, and we are actively exploring how we can overcome the existing legal barriers that will allow us to progress the use of these facilities."

He said the Scottish Government sees drug abuse as a "public health issue". 

Ms Baker sought assurances that the Government's proposal will be "robust" and asked for a timescale for a new scheme to be brought forward.

Mr Swinney said the Government "is taking forward active discussions to establish what could be an acceptable route to enable the appropriate use of drug consumption rooms as part of the public health strategy to tackle the drugs problems that we face in Scottish society". 

He said this involves "a great deal of dialogue" with Police Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Crown Office, among others. 

He added: "That work is underway. As for a timescale, if Claire Baker will forgive me, I can't give a definitive timescale today. 

"But I do assure her that that is being actively pursued as a consequence of the remarks made by the Lord Advocate."