Alex Feis-Bryce of Transform Drug Policy Foundation condemned Douglas Ross’ comments.
The leader of the Scottish conservatives has been heavily criticised by a charity after he made “out of step” comments on drug policy.
Alex Feis-Bryce, CEO of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, hit out at Douglas Ross, an MP and MSP, after a series of claims on decriminalisation live on LBC.
On Tuesday Scotland published its figures on drug deaths for 2022, which showed 1,051 people lost their lives last year.
Mr Ross questioned the Scottish Government’s recent commitment to decriminalisation, asking “how is putting more drugs on the streets of Scotland going to reduce our drug deaths?”
The Scottish Government announced last month that it now backed he decriminalisation of personal drug use in order to shift the issue from a criminal problem to a health one.
When asked if drugs have been “effectively” decriminalised in Scotland as a result of this approach, Mr Ross refuted the claims and questioned the government’s approach.
He said on LBC: “No, absolutely not. I am the husband of a police officer and I know our police do outstanding work to deter and to remove drugs from our street’s day in, day out.
“But I find it a ridiculous policy aim of the Scottish Government to decriminalise drugs - how is putting more drugs on the streets of Scotland going to reduce our drug deaths?”
Following the comments, Mr Feis-Bryce intervened to criticise Mr Ross’ comments.
He told The National: “Decriminalisation is a vital condition for any meaningful public health response to drugs. Criminalisation does not reduce drug-related harms, it actively exacerbates them.
“The 2019 Common Position Statement from the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB), chaired by the UN Secretary General and representing all 31 UN agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has expressed strong and unanimous support for the decriminalisation of possession and use of drugs.
“The statement calls on member states to “promote alternatives to conviction and punishment in appropriate cases, including the decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use”.
“Douglas Ross’ comments put him out of step with the overwhelming international evidence. This is genuinely an issue of life and death. It’s about time politicians used their platform to promote evidence-based and life-saving policies rather than pandering to ‘tough-talking’ populism or engaging in political point scoring."