Portland’s experience of drugs decriminalisation is bleak and devastating… Humza Yousaf MUST be forced to listen, writes Russell Findlay MSP and Tory justice spokesman.
Nationalists love scouring the globe to identify other places as evidence of how Scotland could be transformed into nirvana – but only if the dastardly United Kingdom was dismantled.
SNP politicians carefully cherry-pick whichever places they think will further their divisive agenda.
A recent example of this phenomenon, which is often driven by a blind hatred of all things British, saw a separatist publication pose the question: ‘Can an independent Afghanistan offer lessons for Scotland?’
Emulating Afghanistan is patently ludicrous and other such comparisons rarely have much real bearing on Scotland, due to wide variations between respective societies.
But I suspect the SNP will have little to say about what’s happening in the US city of Portland despite the fact it does have very important and obvious relevance to Scotland.
Residents in Portland, which is in the Pacific coastal state of Oregon, have learned that their liberal approach to drugs has become a ‘biblical-scale’ disaster.
The city decriminalised drugs in 2021 but last week officials were forced to U-turn due to a marked increase in overdoses and deaths.
In Scotland last year, more than 1,000 people lost their lives to drugs, a fatality rate around three times higher than the rest of the UK, and the worst in Europe.
There has long been consensus among Scotland’s political parties on the need to treat our country’s drugs death crisis as a public health emergency. My own party has worked with experts on the front line to bring forward a Right to Recovery Bill, which would give addicts the legal right to the treatment they deserve.
But at the beginning of Holyrood’s summer recess, Humza Yousaf’s drugs minister called for heroin, crack cocaine and all other drugs to be decriminalised.
I believe that doing so would encourage the venal and predatory organised crime gangs who make vast fortunes from peddling their drugs on Scotland’s streets. Less than two years ago, the Lord Advocate formally announced to parliament that there would be a presumption against prosecution for drugs possession.
However, crucially, she said that prosecutors must retain the ability to do so.
This is entirely sensible as it would let the authorities prosecute known dealers who would otherwise revel in immunity. So why do the SNP now think the Lord Advocate is wrong?
The opposition to wholesale decriminalisation chimes with the views of a former senior police officer who spent his career bringing drugs gangs to justice. He told me that for the past ten to 15 years ‘de facto’ decriminalisation has been operating, and making this official ‘would open a new opportunity for organised crime’.
I fear that if society normalises the taking of narcotics, which can never be described as ‘safe’, it will send a very dangerous message to our young people. Reducing the stigma of addiction is one thing – legitimising hard drugs is outrageously irresponsible.
We know that Scotland’s problems with addiction are deep-rooted. There is no easy fix. But decriminalisation represents a massive gamble. Just ask the people of Portland.
Of course, much of the SNP’s motivation for pursuing this radical Portland-style agenda is because it gives them the chance to stoke more constitutional grievance.
This allows them to try to dodge responsibility by blaming the UK Government, thereby creating yet another tiresome and toxic constitutional battle – which is red meat to their core support.
Today’s Scottish Mail on Sunday report is compelling and important. The bleak analysis from the US must be heard in Holyrood. Before taking another step, Yousaf & Co must listen to all of the evidence, not just to those they already agree with.