LAST week’s guidance by Scotland’s Lord Advocate permitting a pilot for a safe drugs consumption facility in Glasgow represents a huge step forward in saving more lives from drug overdoses.

 As many have noted in the days since the Lord Advocate’s announcement, this facility is no magic bullet. There is no single solution to the problematic drug use that affects the lives of so many families across Glasgow.

What we do know though is that medically supervised facilities like this can and do prevent overdose deaths. A facility here in Glasgow could be critical in not only saving lives but also being a vital first step in turning many lives around. As well as medical professionals, those using the safe consumption facility will be able to access health and social care advice and assistance, including for addiction treatment and homelessness.

It is also important that we start to discuss what a safe consumption facility means for communities that have long had to live with the impact of problematic drug use in their areas.

In the coming days, the Integration Joint Board will begin the process of taking forward the plans for the facility, including engaging with the wider community where the facility will be located.

That location will be selected based on evidence of where problem drug use is most prevalent, of where needles are discarded in lanes, closes and car parks and where emergency services respond to overdoses.

The international evidence of many global cities shows that through providing hygienic, safe and supervised facilities, the impact of problematic drug use in local neighbourhoods can be significantly reduced.

The Lord Advocate has been explicitly clear on the need for substantial engagement and local communities can be assured that we will work closely with them to learn what assurances they need from us to feel that they are safe and protected. And also, that they can recognise the benefits of directing problematic drug use away from streets and public spaces into a supervised environment.

Safe consumption facilities are primarily about harm reduction. That includes the harm experienced by local communities and throughout the pilot we will engage as much as possible to ensure we get that right.


ADDRESSING an issue as challenging as Glasgow’s drug deaths crisis involves taking often difficult decisions.

 It needs a commitment from all agencies and elected representatives to work as collaboratively as possible and, at times, to be radical.

At our last Full Council meeting my colleague councillor Allan Casey brought forward a motion calling on all parties to support a position backing decriminalisation of drugs for personal use.

It is a policy that has been supported by the influential Global Commission on Drugs Policy, the Scottish Government and, it has now been revealed, by the UK Government’s Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs. 

The motion secured the support of the SNP, Greens and Conservatives and while of course Glasgow has no power to decriminalise drugs, it is important that we have a coherent and unified position to bring an agreed and mandated Glasgow voice to this continuing discussion.

It was regrettable that Labour councillors could not bring themselves to add their support, a decision, I suspect, made for them by their bosses Anas Sarwar and Sir Keir Starmer. That was then followed by some serious misinformation on social media, perhaps trying to compensate for a position I believe many Labour elected members and supporters will feel very uncomfortable with.

Like on so many other issues, Labour are all over the show on this one, caught between responding to backlash, the needs of their constituents and the demands of their leaders. Mr Sarwar himself has moved from previously supporting decriminalisation to now refusing to even back the devolution of drugs laws to Scotland’s Parliament. Maybe one day he’ll be able to tell us where Labour actually stand.

In the meantime, what I’m certain of is that jostling for party political position is the last thing Scotland’s addiction sufferers, their loved ones and their communities need, and I’ll continue to work with anyone who’s ready to tackle our drugs crisis.


EARLIER this week, John Cotton, the Labour leader of Birmingham City Council, apologised to citizens for the financial crisis that has bankrupted the local authority.

 The city is facing a second equal pay bill, the causes and consequences of which Birmingham Labour never properly got to grips with. Failure to commit to real change has left the council able to deliver only the most basic statutory services.

In 2017, it fell to the SNP to sort out Glasgow Labour’s own pay discrimination scandal. We committed to righting Labour’s wrongs scrupulously and prudently and with as little impact on frontline services as possible, although we always knew some would be unavoidable. To be clear, despite the £1 billion bill Glasgow Labour left the city, the action taken by the SNP means that Glasgow’s financial situation bears no resemblance to Birmingham’s.

But even after all they’ve done, Glasgow Labour still don’t get it. In recent comments, the council’s Labour group leader George Redmond made utterly baseless and scurrilous predictions that Glasgow was also at risk of bankruptcy. Not only is that completely false, but Councillor Redmond also didn’t even deign to mention equal pay, either in the context of Birmingham or Glasgow.

Councillor Redmond’s shamelessness about Labour’s role in implementing and, crucially, defending its pay discrimination now extends to attempting to whitewash it entirely from history.

He owes an apology to staff and citizens not only for spreading fear and alarm but also for the financial consequences of a policy of discrimination implemented and defended by him and his colleagues.