Europe: Scottish Tories Tip-Toe Toward Libertarian Line on Drug Policy 3/3/06

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/425/scottishtories.shtml

A new book edited Scottish Conservative Party deputy leader Murdo Fraser and endorsed by party head Annabel Goldie suggests that the Scots Tories are edging toward a more libertarian line on drug policy. "The Blue Book: Scottish Conservatism in the 21st Century" contains 17 essays on various aspects of party policy, but it is the chapter by attorney and former Edinburg councilor Iain Catto calling for legalized drug taking that is grabbing the spotlight.

Catto's chapter was about lessening state interference in people's personal lives and freedom. He urged Tories to accept a restricted role for the state; one where it bans or restricts activities only to prevent harm to others and where it recognizes that individuals are generally better placed than politicians or the state to determine what is best for them.

In his chapter, Catto took politicians of all stripes to task for pursuing "the complete prohibition line" out of fear of being seen as soft on drugs. "In line with our principles, if an individual is aware of the risks involved with taking drugs -- which makes education as to the effects of the particular drugs vital -- and if the individual has the capacity to consent, then surely it should be left to that individual to make that choice?" he asked.

Government assumes both that it must protect all from possible harm to a few and that it is better placed than common people to decide what is best, Catto argued. "The state choosing to ban, say marijuana, because of fears about possible health effects that might take place at some point in the future, in order to protect children from accessing it, is not the whole justification," he wrote. "So in reality it is the state deciding that it knows better than individuals what is right for themselves, and claiming to protect us from a so-called dangerous product."

Murdo Fraser, the editor, was careful to say the ideas in the book were not official Scottish Tory policy, which is currently very hard-line on drugs, but he insisted the showcased the "breadth of young talent" within the party. "The hope is that they will stimulate debate, not just about the future of Conservatism, but of Scotland."

Scottish conservatism could use some help. The Scots Tories are currently tied with the Scots Liberal Party with 17 seats each in the Scottish Parliament, trailing the Scottish Labor Party with 50 seats and the Scottish National Party with 25 seats.

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Issue #425 -- 3/3/06

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