The BBC reports today on a national vote in Switzerland that made it government policy for heroin addicts to be allowed to inject the drug under medical supervision. The issue was not controversial or considered to be a radical step, despite what the BBC claims. The Swiss are lot more cool than Brits suppose.
The issue was hardly mentioned ahead of the vote by any newspaper including the tabloid Blick. The vote purely ratified an accepted practice.
What was controversial about this Sunday’s referendum votes was a proposal to legalise cannabis. The conservative electorate was overwhelmingly against. However Switzerland will continue to turn a blind eye to moderate use (smell it on the train, see police seeing people smoke it without taking action).
My Swiss friends laughed when they read the BBC report. One said the only explanation she could think of for the BBC’s shock was that the UN had long been against Switzerland’s policy of prescribing heroin to addicts. Another asked whether Britain’s alternative treatment for addicts of prescribing methadone was any better. Yet another asked why the BBC saw the need to sensationalize an uncontroversial vote.
I guess it is because the BBC is not so much interested in Swiss drugs policy as what the British will make of it. The Swissness of the moment was lost in translation.