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26 September 2017, 16:39
The decision to close a busy needle exchange programme for drug addicts in Glasgow's Central Station is to be reconsidered, Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said.
ScotRail Alliance bosses have already been contacted by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf regarding the decision, which was originally made by Network Rail.
But Ms Campbell said the project, which operated out of the Boots pharmacy in the station had provided an "important public service" and that discussions about its future were ongoing.
The needle exchange had been set up in the station in 2016 following a spike in HIV cases in the city, and since then has provided more than 40,000 sets of clean injecting equipment.
Network Rail reportedly took the decision to close it after an addict overdosed in the station area and discarded needles were found by cleaners on a number of occasions.
Labour's James Kelly pressed the Scottish Government on the issue, saying the loss of the service had "caused a great deal of anxiety".
He insisted: "It is very damaging decision and has got to be reversed as soon as possible."
Ms Campbell told him ministers were also "concerned" about the decision to close the project, saying this was contrary to the ambitions set out in the Scottish Government's drugs strategy.
She added: "The Glasgow Central Station needle exchange is one of the busiest in Scotland, providing about 1,000 transactions per month, thereby meeting a significant public health need in Glasgow.
"Removing this service will not only displace but potentially exacerbate the issue of problem drug use in this area."
She told MSPs Mr Yousaf had already spoken to the managing director of the ScotRail Alliance - which brings together train operators Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail.
Ms Campbell asid: "My colleague Humza Yousaf has already engaged with the ScotRail Alliance who are going to ensure there is a re-look at Network Rail's decision in light of the concerns that have been raised
"Certainly I have expressed my concern about this decision, it will potentially exacerbate what is quite a significant problem for the city."