When two young glaswegians shooting up in a filthy alley heard on a recent afternoon that a van offering a safe place to take their illegal hit was parked around the corner, they were understandably surprised.

I didnt know anything about that, said one, a young mother who declined to be identified by name.

The van is a daring challenge to half a century of drugs policy in the uk, launched last month by former addict peter krykant.

Uk authorities and scottish police insist that the provision of safe consumption facilities for drug users is illegal under the 1971 misuse of drugs act. but mr krykant hopes his carefully equipped minibus will demonstrate the role that safe consumption could play in cutting scotlands soaring drugs deaths.

Scotland needs this, he said in an interview by the side of his van, which is stocked with disposable seat and table covers, hand sanitiser, sterile injecting equipment and naloxone, a potentially life-saving medication for opiate overdoses. its just a no-brainer. this needs to happen and we cant put it off any more.

Data released last year showed drugs-related deaths in scotland soared 27 per cent in 2018 to 1,187, a higher per capita death rate than any other european country.

Mr krykant is far from alone in believing that safe consumption spaces could help reduce this rate. the scottish parliament in 2018 voted emphatically in favour of creating a fix room in glasgow.

In a report last november, the uk parliaments cross-party scottish affairs committee suggested such facilities were proven to reduce overdoses, drug deaths, blood-borne virus infection rates and public injecting.

Mr krykant said that while safe consumption spaces were no panacea, the provision of clean equipment would help limit hiv among glasgow addicts, bring users into contact with recovery services, and allow quick treatment for those who overdosed.

Mr krykant is trained in first aid and in the use of naloxone and has a 4,000 defibrillator in the van, which he bought with his own funds and donations.

Users who queued up to use the van agreed that it would help cut fatalities.

William, 48, said fear of arrest for drugs possession meant many addicts end up jagging in dirty places. ive seen people using dirty water to put [their drugs] in, even their own urine, he said.

Clutching two tightly wrapped packages of heroin and cocaine, craig, 29, said one of his friends had nearly died of an overdose in a nearby lane the week before. normally i would do it in the wee alley up there, but i heard about this van. its a lot safer, he said.

But while support for safe consumption spaces has grown in scotland, power over drugs legislation lies in westminster and the conservative uk government has rejected calls to approve a trial or to devolve authority to the scottish parliament to do so.

Our approach to drugs is clear we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs, the uk home office said.

We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms and anyone running them would be committing a range of offences, it said.

Scotlands governing scottish national party has repeatedly called for consumption spaces to be legalised, saying there is clear international evidence they could help save lives.

But annie wells, a conservative member of the scottish parliament, accused the pro-independence snp of focusing on the issue to deflect attention from its failure to fund residential rehab facilities that she says would do more to cut drugs deaths.

Ms wells, who comes from an area of glasgow with deep-rooted drug problems, said addicts and their family members told her they opposed consumption spaces.

They dont want to see their family member or a friend being able to go somewhere to carry on taking a substance which is potentially ruining their lives, she said. [peter krykant] is a cracking guy [but] i dont think its the right thing to do.

Asked about mr krykants van, police scotland said any form of safe consumption location contravened the misuse of drugs act and that provision of an entirely unlicensed and unregulated facility may expose vulnerable people to more risk and harm.

But so far at least, the force has taken no action against mr krykant, who says officers who have visited the van have been supportive.

Every circumstance will be considered on an individual basis and dealt with in the most appropriate manner, police scotland said. if there is a sufficiency of evidence to indicate a law or laws have been broken, officers will take the most proportionate and necessary actions.

Despite such warnings, mr krykant is determined to continue with his van and on friday opened the first of two gazebos in glasgow hotspots where he plans to offer similar services.

I dont actually believe what im doing is illegal, he said. theres a massive grey area in an outdated act that covers drug misuse...ultimately i think [prosecutors] would be hard pushed to convict me.

Police might try to arrest drug users in the van, mr krykant said, but that would raise the question of whether they would rather addicts inject in the nearby rat-infested alley.

It would be a lie to say i wasnt concerned...but im prepared to face any of that stuff if it arises, he said.