People found in possession of Class A drugs for personal use can now be issued with a recorded police warning instead of facing automatic prosecution, following a review of guidance by the Lord Advocate.
Dorothy Bain QC, who was appointed Scotland’s most senior law officer in June, told MSPs on Wednesday that she had decided to implement an extension of recorded police warning guidelines following a review of the guidance.
She said the move does not amount to decriminalisation for the possession of Class A drugs, which include crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone and methamphetamine (crystal meth).
The recorded police warning scheme enables officers to deal with a wide range of low level offences by issuing a warning on the spot or retrospectively, in the form of a notice.
The guidelines previously permitted the police to issue such warnings for possession of Class B and C drugs.
Bain said: “I have considered the review and I have decided that an extension of the recorded police warning guidelines to include possession offences for Class A drugs is appropriate.
“Police officers may therefore choose to issue a recorded police warning for simple possession offences for all classes of drugs.”
Bain said the scheme extends to drug possession offences only, and not supply. She also said the warnings do not amount to the decriminalisation of an offence.
Officers will retain the ability to report appropriate cases to the procurator fiscal. Accused persons retain the right to reject the offer of a warning.
The announcement comes after drug deaths hit a record high in Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in July revealed 1339 drug-related deaths in 2020 – a 5% increase on the previous year’s statistics and the largest number since records began in 1996.
It also meant it was the seventh year in a row that drug-related deaths had hit hit record levels.
Scotland continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK.
Bain said that a warning or fine may be an “appropriate, proportionate response” for some people caught in supply of Class A drugs.
She said approximately two thirds of people reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, where the only offence reported is possession of drugs, are dealt with by alternatives to prosecution – mainly by being offered a financial penalty.
She said: “Any alternative to prosecution: warnings, fines or diversion, are offers only. An accused person always has the right to reject such an offer and there will be cases where prosecution is the appropriate response in the public interest.
“Where an accused person is subsequently found guilty the courts, in turn, have a range of sentencing disposals appropriate to the individual accused and offence.
“The range of options available to police, prosecutors and courts reflects the fact that in Scotland there is no one size fits all response to an individual found in possession of a controlled substance or an individual dependent on drugs.”
A mother whose daughter died at a children’s cancer ward after contracting an infection has described her child’s death as “murder”.
Kimberly Darroch told the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry she wants the children and adult hospitals at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow to close.
She believes NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board should be punished after she claims staff covered up the true cause of her daughter’s death, which she found out about two years later in the media.
The inquiry began hearing evidence on Monday into problems at two flagship hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.
It is investigating the construction of the QEUH campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.
In a statement read out at the inquiry on Wednesday, Ms Darroch said she was never given details of an infection that her daughter contracted when she died, which she later discovered contributed towards her death.
Ms Darroch also claimed hospital reports about her meeting with doctors to discuss the infection were false.
Her statement said: “My view is that the hospital should be closed. I don’t think it’s safe.
“I feel like the health board need to be punished for all of this. In my eyes, what happened to my daughter is murder.
“She should still be here and I am trying to come to terms with that, after coming to terms with losing her initially.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to. I would never go back to the hospital, never.”
Ms Darroch’s daughter, ten-year-old Milly Main, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2012.
She died in 2017 after contracting stenotrophomonas – an infection found in water, the inquiry heard.
Ms Darroch and her family claim they were unaware of this infection which contributed to her daughter’s death until after she died.
Christine Horne, Ms Darroch’s mother, also had her statement read out at the inquiry on Wednesday.
She said: “We were never told what it was and there was never any indication that it was related to the water in the hospital.
“Nobody said anything about what had caused the infection.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the inquiry heard from Lynn Kearns who criticised a children’s hospital ward at the QEUH campus for having no running water while her young son received treatment for a rare disease in the building’s “prison-like” conditions.
She said her son was unable to shower for about two weeks while being treated in the hospital despite vomiting on his own face during treatment.
Mrs Kearns’ son was 11 when he was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in December 2017.
He was treated in the Royal Hospital for Children at the QEUH campus between December 2017 and March 2018.
Mrs Kearns said she understood the water supply was cut off due to a certain type of bacteria being found in the system.
She said water supply issues at the hospital ward remain a problem today.
After taking her son into the same hospital on Monday, she said she spoke to two maintenance workers who are still changing filters on the sink taps every two months, the inquiry heard.
The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, will continue on Thursday.
An industry body representing bar and nightclub bosses has launched a legal challenge over the Scottish Government’s Covid passport scheme.
The NTIA (Night Time Industries Association) said it was ‘disappointed’ that the scheme will go ahead.
It means that proof of a Covid-19 vaccination will be required when seeking to enter a nightclub or adult entertainment venue, or to attend large-scale events.
The vaccine certification scheme will come into effect from 5am on Friday, October 1.
But, the NTIA, has hit out at a lack of consultation with the Scottish Government over the scheme, which was approved by MSPs at Holyrood earlier this month.
In a statement, the industry body said: “The NTIA is disappointed to note that the First minister has now confirmed that vaccine passports are proceeding.
“The NTIA have, along with the other sectoral trade bodies, been engaged in dialogue with government over the last three weeks, and whilst unfortunately that dialogue has not in any way resembled a meaningful consultation between government and the sector, we remain ready to work with Scottish Government should they choose to take on board the sector’s concerns and work collaboratively to find a better and more deliverable solution.
“This vaccine passport scheme as currently proposed raises serious issues with definition, market distortion, discrimination, resource allocation and economic impact amongst others, and had Scottish Government been prepared to work with sectoral experts in the earliest stages of policy formulation some of these deep rooted problems may have been avoidable.”
The NTIA announced it has instructed its legal team to commence proceedings against the government.
They said: “It is also clear to us that the policy as currently proposed is neither proportionate, nor represents the lowest level of intervention possible to achieve the public health imperative, and it is therefore likely to be unlawful.
“Regrettably then, and given the serious flaws in the policy as proposed, we have now instructed our legal team to commence proceedings against the Scottish Government with a legal challenge to vaccination passports.”
The body however said that it remains “willing” to work with the Scottish Government on a policy.
They wrote: “We had hoped that the recent evidence of rapidly falling cases might provide government with the incentive to look again and take the sector’s concerns into account.
“And to engage in meaningful consultation where government and businesses could work together and design solutions that both address our shared goal of reducing the harms from Covid and are also deliverable.
“Unfortunately, this has not happened, however we remain willing to work with Scottish Government on any policy which both achieves our shared goals and also allows businesses to remain economically viable.”
Speaking on a visit to a new research and development centre near Prestwick Airport, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the scheme is a “proportionate measure” to help stem transmission of the virus.
She said: “Everything we’re trying to do right now is about keeping the virus under control, so stemming transmission while keeping society and the economy open and operational.
“Nobody wants to go back to lockdown restrictions if we can possibly avoid it.
“That’s why we’re introducing a Covid certification scheme, not something anybody wants to do, but a proportionate measure that will help stem transmission while keeping businesses like nightclubs and big events operational.”
“Scottish businesses can no longer afford to take the SNP’s punishing policies lying down.”
Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative MSP
Scottish Conservative Covid recovery spokesman, Murdo Fraser urged the SNP to drop its plans for the scheme.
“The Night Time Industries Association’s legal challenge to vaccine passports is a justified response to what is an extreme, damaging and profoundly unfair scheme,” he said.
“The NTIA has had no choice but to take the SNP Government to court, after their concerns have been repeatedly and deliberately ignored by the Government.
“The hospitality industry has been warning of the devastating effects of the SNP’s plans for weeks. They have done everything in their power to have their concerns heard and yet the SNP has failed to engage in any kind of meaningful consultation with Scottish businesses.”
Fraser continued: “Scottish businesses can no longer afford to take the SNP’s punishing policies lying down.
“This legal action is testament to the fact that many businesses will be disproportionately and unjustifiably harmed by the SNP’s current schemes.
“I urge the SNP Government to drop these plans now, before Scotland’s economic recovery is damaged even further.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also urged the Government to “cut their losses” and ditch the “wasteful scheme”.
He said: “Rather than recognise that Covid ID cards are not an effective or proportionate solution, the Scottish Government have expanded the scope of the policy sucking in a host of venues who did not expect to be included.
“No wonder the night time industry is in uproar. They’re being treated as disposable by the Government.
“It’s a shame that the willingness of the industry to work on jointly acceptable solutions is not matched by SNP ministers. Hopefully this legal action will turn out to be last orders for this illiberal Covid ID card scheme.”
The Lib Dem MSP added: “The Scottish Government should cut their losses and plough the resources that are going into this wasteful scheme into fixing our testing and tracing operation and ringing all of those who have yet to have two doses of the vaccine to encourage them to book an appointment.”
Scottish Labour’s finance and economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson said: “This plunges the SNP’s misguided vaccine passport scheme into yet more chaos.
“SNP ministers have provided no impact assessment, no details on what business will need to do or even how the criteria will apply with only days before these measures will be brought in.
“It is no wonder trade bodies feel forced to challenge the government in the courts.
The Irn-Bru Carnival is set to return to Glasgow this Christmas.
The popular event was cancelled in 2020 after the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) was transformed into the NHS Louisa Jordan hospital in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, organisers announced its return.
Posting on Facebook, a spokesperson said: “It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… The Irn-Bru Carnival is back.”
As well as dozens of stalls and rides, there will also be an inflatable play area for younger children.
The event will run from December 22 to January 16, aside from Christmas Day, and tickets will go on sale at 10am on Thursday. Autism-friendly sessions will be held on Friday, December 31 and Tuesday, January 11.