Saturday 27 July 2019

Dear Priti Patel - an open letter

From my Daily Record column
Friday 26th July
Dear Priti Patel,
In fact, Dear Secretary of State for the Home Department. Forgive the informality and my open approach.
We haven't had many journalistic dealings with each other, not since your parliamentary aides stole four bottles of whisky from a Scotland Office reception a few years ago and you had to issue an apology, which you did with great grace and humour.
Your staff were reprimanded, not sent to the gallows (er, ha ha). You changed your mind on capital punishment, I hope I can change your mind on something else.
You inherit a bulging in-tray from Sajid Javid; Brexit, citizenship and immigration will be priorities.
Hopefully you will not have been bequeathed Javid's closed-mind attitude to drugs consumption rooms and the dire health crisis which leaves Scotland facing more than 1000 drugs deaths this year.
Health officials in Glasgow, the Scottish Government, local MPs, and this newspaper are campaigning for consumption rooms where addicts can administer their own drugs in a safe and sterile environment.
This is controversial, I accept, but these facilities have been proven to save lives elsewhere.
The Commons Scottish affairs committee investigation into the issue, which the Home Office boycotted under Javid, should be in your red box soon.
On health grounds, there are few arguments left against these facilities.
As a political issue it is rather more tangled. The SNP insists getting the facilities running should involve devolving part of the Misuse of Drugs Act to Scotland.
Whitehall sees this as conceding more power without purpose.
It need not be so.
As Home Secretary you could change the relevant clauses of the Act by statutory instrument, without a vote in Parliament.
At the stroke of a pen you could approve a UK pilot scheme in Glasgow, save lives in Scotland, confound opponents and show your Government has compassion for some very vulnerable people.
It's a big ask, but it would be a great start for you and is easier than Brexit.
Good luck with that by the way.
Yours, TC.

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