Drug Misuse

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:34 am on 20th January 2000.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 9:34 am, 20th January 2000

We turn now to the debate, which is to last all day, on tackling drug misuse in Scotland.

A large number of members wish to take part in this debate. If all speeches last the full four minutes, not everyone will be called. In particular, my office was in touch with the four parties' spokespeople about the length of opening speeches, in the hope that they might cut the amount of time that they have been allocated. We have had no positive response to that contact, but I would appreciate it if the front-bench spokespersons for the four parties could ensure that they do not overrun. Indeed, whoever succeeds me in the chair will ensure that they do not overrun and, preferably, that they underrun, so that we can accommodate everyone who wishes to take part in the debate.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

On a point of order. I wish to be helpful, Presiding Officer—can you indicate what length front-bench speeches should be? I know that they do not fit neatly into the timetable decided by the Parliamentary Bureau and I will try to cut down my speech to assist you.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am surprised by your question, Mr Raffan, as my office communicated with all four parties. The Executive will have 25 minutes, the SNP will have 20 minutes and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will have 18 minutes each for opening speeches. These times are very generous and I would appreciate shorter speeches.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

As a point of information, Presiding Officer, that information was not communicated to me—this is the first that I have heard of it.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I will look into that. If I have overstated the position, I am sorry. However, that is what I was advised before I took the chair.

Anyway, I appeal for short speeches. This is an important debate—we have all day for it, but many members wish to take part.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

On a point of order. I am sure, Presiding Officer, that you will not be surprised if I remind you that there are six parties in the chamber. The Scottish Socialist party has certainly not been involved in any bureau discussions about the allocation of time for speeches. However, may I ask for your comments on why you did not accept my amendment?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

You can ask me, but I will not comment. I do not give reasons for selecting or not selecting amendments. Yesterday, I initially declined the amendment that was lodged by the Conservative party, so you should not feel persecuted in this matter.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour 10:10 am, 20th January 2000

I should begin by indicating that I have prepared a speech on the basis that I have 25 minutes, but I will attempt to deliver it as quickly as is practicable.

I want to put it on record that I believe that it is right that we should spend a full day discussing drugs misuse in this Parliament. Scotland has a very serious drugs problem and other developed countries suffer with us. We are targeted daily by an aggressive international business, whose products bring pain and loss—for drug users, for families and for communities.

In this debate, we could talk for a long time about lives crippled and lost, the huge toll of drug-linked crime, the diseases spread, the fear in neighbourhoods, the damage to families and the loss of youth and opportunity. However, I do not need to spend too much time pressing home that message here, because members have already heard it directly and bluntly from families and communities in their areas.

I am also not going to talk today about the decriminalisation of cannabis or the legalisation of currently illegal drugs. We can debate those issues, but we cannot act on them. I want to focus on matters that we can discuss and on which we can act.

This debate must be about how Scotland can protect its young people and communities, how we can bring those of our people who already have drug addictions back into health and into contributing positively to our communities, and how we can dismantle the criminal organisations that fuel and profit from our drugs problem. The debate is about how we can do all that together, in step with the Executive's targeted drugs strategy, which is endorsed and is being implemented by the key agencies involved. That is the purpose of today's debate: to get all of Scotland working together in partnership to tackle drug misuse effectively.

Drugs are an extremely lucrative illegal business. Drug trafficking is worth the world trade in oil and gas combined. Like all business, it depends on a balance between supply and demand. Supply disruption is therefore critical to damaging those illegal businesses. However, today I want to emphasise that the Executive's approach is much wider than that. Only by devastating the demand for drugs can we hope to be successful in destroying this business in the long term. That requires concerted and focused action across four key areas: availability, communities, treatment and young people.

Drug criminals and drug misuse do not recognise boundaries, whether geographical or institutional. They do not respect school gates, workplace rules, age, family structures, working hours or any of the other conventional boundaries that condition our lives. They are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That is why we must respond by dissolving departmental and agency boundaries; by pooling budgets, experience and decision making; by ensuring that those in enforcement contribute to the work in education and treatment; and by ensuring that all those delivering treatment and education understand and support the work that is needed to deliver effective enforcement. It is why we must search every budget to support those in our communities who are willing to get involved in the fight to reclaim their streets, their neighbourhoods and their communities—sometimes their family members—from the destruction of drugs.

The programme for government, "Making it work together", underpins the Executive's partnership approach to government. That approach is the key to how we are tackling drug misuse, and we are determined that it will be seen plainly in the decisions that ministers take—in our policies, in the advice that we take, in the services that we provide, in the way that we measure success or failure, and in the way that we involve all of Scottish society in that action.

The Executive made a fresh start on 1 July 1999, building on the adoption of Scotland's drugs strategy, "Tackling Drugs in Scotland: Action in Partnership", which supplies the tools for the job. Co-ordination and action are led by ministers. The Executive is taking a new cross-cutting approach, which does not recognise departmental boundaries. Tough new objectives have been set, for example, on reducing drug-related deaths. Those objectives will be openly measured and there will be transparency and increased accountability. Most important, the 20 drug action teams across Scotland have the role of shaping locally sensitive drugs strategies on the ground, and of building services around the real and changing nature of localised drug misuse patterns.

That co-ordinated and performance-led thinking starts at the top of the Scottish Executive. There is a Scottish Cabinet committee with ministers from the key areas of justice, health, communities and education.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Do locally sensitive drugs strategies include locally sensitive punitive measures, which might involve the criminal justice system? We should hear more about how that could be done.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am sure that Margo MacDonald will have the opportunity to inform us how that could be done when she makes a speech in the debate. Enforcement agencies, and a number of other agencies, are represented on the drug action teams that are developing local strategies, so there is an opportunity to develop a wide range of approaches.

We are asking ourselves hard questions about effectiveness; about gaps; about measuring progress against objectives; about the cost of drug misuse; about matching resources to strategic objectives; and about what makes it easier for young people to resist drug use, and harder for criminals to sell drugs that damage and kill.

The breadth of our approach extends to the advice that we take. We take advice from the Scottish Advisory Committee on Drug Misuse, whose members span the community—the voluntary sector, police, prisons, social work, public health, drugs forums, psychiatry, customs and local government.

That approach is also the central thread of the Executive's drugs strategy, "Tackling Drugs in Scotland: Action in Partnership". The four pillars of that strategy—young people, communities, treatment and availability—are not separate issues to be dealt with in isolation. They are a set of linked programmes, which are designed to be mutually reinforcing and effective.

The linked programmes are focused on key objectives for each of the pillars. We will measure progress against specific action priorities, such as the development of effective shared care arrangements and integrated drug misuse services. We will match resources progressively to those priorities to achieve maximum impact and value for money.

Some steps are big; some are small. The action programme for delivering the drugs strategy will include measures such as the effective training of teachers; expanding integrated drug misuse services; improving the availability and quality of outreach work; sharing information and best practice among those implementing the drugs strategy; and ensuring that best practice guides investment decisions. That is not an easy task, and it will take time. The people of Scotland will not judge success by counting the number of committee meetings or nicely worded reports, and neither will the Executive.

What counts for us all is removing the scourge of drugs from our streets and playgrounds; making available effective drug misuse services; creating peaceful communities; helping those who are rebuilding their lives to make an effective contribution to their communities; and doing all we can to prevent young people from turning to drugs.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

In light of an incident in my constituency yesterday, in which a constituent discovered a bottle of methadone outside a primary school, does the minister intend to review how methadone is dispensed, particularly during holidays?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

That is an important point, which—if the member will bear with me—I will address directly later in my speech.

We have launched a new approach within the Executive to deliver this agenda. We know that we need to break down the traditional departmental barriers to joined-up action on drugs. That means sharing budgets, joint policy development, developing and delivering innovative and pragmatic solutions to difficult social problems, and operating in a climate of transparency and accountability.

As the minister with overall responsibility for all drug matters, I lead that process. We will publish an Executive drug action plan within the next 90 days. That action plan will spell out clearly what action the Executive has already taken, is currently taking and will take in the future to play its part in supporting the implementation of the drugs strategy by the agencies in the field. It will signal the key milestones that we need to achieve through the drugs strategy so that all the agencies involved know what they, and we, must do and by when.

Partnership with key agencies is the cornerstone of the strategy. We have been turning that commitment into practical action so that the delivery of public services for drug misuse fits round people, rather than people being expected to fit round existing structures. We have a planning structure that co-ordinates action and achieves agreed objectives, and changes in the way in which we work have reinforced that approach. Those changes include expanding agency representation on our main Scottish Advisory Committee on Drug Misuse. That committee now has new operations and research groups drawing all agencies into play, backed up by regular contact to keep all the key players in touch and ensure that we are all moving in the same direction.

The work of the Executive and all the agencies is being progressively strengthened and a number of new initiatives have already been launched to ensure that efforts are properly focused. We now have a unit dedicated to drug misuse information with a budget of £300,000 a year. It has 10 full-time staff and its purpose is to ensure that the Executive, the drug action teams and other agencies plan and act upon the best possible up-to-date information. By April, the team will publish an improved drug misuse statistics bulletin that will show clearly the extent and nature of drug misuse that must be tackled. It will show, for example, the extent of needle sharing broken down area by area. Such useful information will in turn inform the action taken by agencies at local level.

I will be launching a drugs website.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I shall finish this point first.

I will be launching a drugs website by April. It will feature policy and strategic development documents, latest news and links to helping agencies. Most important, it will provide up-to-date statistics, research and good practice in a variety of settings that will be of direct and practical assistance to those developing and delivering services throughout Scotland. It will offer real practical advice and support for those agencies and for the drug action teams throughout Scotland.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the minister for his comments, because the issue of needle exchange is crucial. Beyond that, however, we must consider legalising the use of drugs paraphernalia including aluminium spoons for heating heroin. Mr MacKay knows as well as I do that that is a crucial issue connected with the increasing incidence of hepatitis C that worries all Scottish health boards. Will he assure us that he will examine that issue?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I can assure Mr Raffan that we will review every issue pertaining to drug misuse. We rule out nothing before we have properly evaluated all approaches.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

Can the minister assure us that, in gathering statistics on needle use and on other issues, he will conduct prevalence studies in areas in which we do not have good information? Information could be gathered from those in treatment programmes, from those who attend casualty departments for a variety of reasons, or from studies on causes of death. That would enable us to discover whether there are common threads or areas on which we can target resources in future. I suspect that, in the past, such studies have not been conducted properly.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Mr Adam's question has anticipated the very next paragraph of my speech, so I will answer his point directly. I would like to press on with the rest of my speech, as I am aware that time is limited and many other members want to contribute.

Scotland's first ever systematic drug misuse research programme is being prepared by the Scottish Advisory Committee on Drug Misuse. That programme will ensure that research efforts actively inform the delivery of the drugs strategy on the ground and will help us to act on priority areas. For the first time, we will know where the need is greatest. In the past fortnight, we have commissioned a drug misuse prevalence study at a cost of £300,000.

Because they get help to people who need it and because they reduce the burden of crime on local communities, we are continuing to fund methadone treatment programmes and will be expanding the drug treatment and testing order pilots. Those pilot programmes will have a budget of £3.1 million over the next three years and are designed to break the cycle of crime.

Those initiatives are a first step in trying to move away from the imprisonment of non-serious drug offenders, in which we see continuous cycles of reoffending and unbroken drug dependency. Imprisonment is costly and the drug treatment and testing orders may well represent a more successful and cost-effective way of dealing with some offenders, which will break their addiction.

Spending on treatment has already been boosted by an additional £6 million over a three-year period, which brings the visible annual spend to £11.3 million. That represents a 20 per cent rise on previous levels and means that for Glasgow—where additional resources were matched by local funding—16 new initiatives are up and running, targeting priority actions in the drug action team strategy. Those initiatives include a Mothers Against Drugs through care service for greater Easterhouse; two additional addiction psychiatry teams to treat drug users with mental health problems; a new young people's arrest and referral scheme; additional support for pregnant drug users; and additional services in all the council areas.

Rehabilitation services are critical; we are examining how best to develop the services available to drug misusers in the community and how to make them more effective. We have a specific commitment in the programme for government to expand such services. Projects that can develop links with further education programmes and provide training and employment opportunities need the most urgent attention. Dealing with someone's addiction is just one part of the problem. We need projects and services that can do that, but which can also address the other issues that affect an individual's ability to cope, to get into a positive lifestyle and to change the factors that encourage and foster their drug misuse. Some very positive models exist, which deal with drug misusers holistically rather than just in terms of their drug addiction. Learning from such models is important for the future shape of service delivery.

However, to do all that effectively, we need more information on what works and for whom. It is clear that different people have different needs and respond best to different approaches, but we do not yet have firm information on who will benefit most from what. For example, will a person get most benefit from a residential service, a harm reduction service in the community, or a service that focuses on helping people to make lifestyle changes? We must ensure that services are well focused and concentrate on outcomes. We must shape services to meet the needs of particular clients, rather than expect clients to fit the shape of existing services.

Some people have expressed concern about the methadone programme. The success of methadone in reducing crime, death, disease and drug use is well documented. Its provision leads to stability, not only for the drug user but for the families and communities involved. Methadone is the most effective treatment for heroin addiction. Compared with other major drug treatments, methadone is the most rigorously studied and has yielded the best results. Methadone treatment reduces the frequency of injection and of needle sharing. Arrests for drugs offences and other offences decline, because methadone patients reduce or stop buying and using illegal drugs.

Methadone also drastically reduces, and often eliminates, heroin use among addicts. Studies here and abroad consistently show that methadone treatment is extremely cost-effective. However, the Executive is asking all health boards to report on the steps that they have taken to ensure that, wherever practicable, methadone is taken under supervision. That includes addressing problems that may arise over weekend and holiday periods. Investigations in Glasgow into 65 recent drugs deaths found that 10 per cent had taken methadone, although in only one case was methadone the only drug taken. The balance of benefit is hugely in favour of prescribing methadone, but we must make that use safe and watertight. That is what we are asking the health boards to secure. It is extremely important that that valuable treatment is delivered as part of an integrated package, which draws together all the agencies involved in a cohesive approach.

We have taken a long hard look at what drug misuse in Scotland costs the country. One of the first decisions of the Cabinet drugs committee was to commission the Executive policy unit to undertake a comprehensive audit of expenditure relating to drug misuse in all departments. The purpose of that audit is to look carefully, establish how much is being spent and assess the effectiveness of that spend.

The previously accepted figure for such spend has been in excess of £50 million, but the figure will be a good deal more than that. Early indications are that the spend may in fact be in multiples of that sum. That means that we will be asking serious questions about the effectiveness of current funding, the amount of new funding required to make inroads into drug misuse and the need for powerful evaluation of existing service delivery through all agencies. With the information produced by the policy unit's work, we will be able to see what more can be done to match resources to priorities. The results of the audit are expected in the spring, and will feed into the spending review to take place in 2000.

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party

Will the audit look at the size of the black economy that comes from the drug trade in Scotland?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

No. It is an internal Scottish Executive audit looking at the money that goes out of the Executive's door.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am sorry, but I must make progress because I am running out of time.

The audit will set spending plans for 2002-03 and beyond. The process in Whitehall is already well under way, with a view to announcements in July. The fight against drugs is one of our major initiatives, and additional resources for drug misuse will be addressed in the review. As I have said, there has nevertheless already been major new investment this year in drugs treatment and enforcement.

It is vital that the Executive has the capacity to evaluate good practice, thereby ensuring compatibility and consistency, and to promote evidence-based approaches and interventions that will reduce drug misuse and its cost to society. Earlier this year, I announced funding of £300,000 to establish, for the first time in Scotland, a dedicated prevention and effectiveness unit. Today, I am able to announce details of how that money will be spent.

The new unit will be located at the heart of the Executive. It will be an integral part of the Executive's drug misuse cross-cutting team in the public health policy unit. That unit, and its location, will optimise the delivery of the strategy by researching and evaluating best practice and value for money. It will promote the replication of best practice in all drug action team areas, and its efforts will support our agenda of "What's best, is what works." It will therefore also help to identify failed and failing projects, services and approaches, which in turn will assist the Executive and drug action teams in making decisions about switching resources to action that delivers. The unit is an important step towards aligning resources to strategic objectives.

I am also pleased to announce today additional moneys to underscore the capacity of our communities and businesses to fight drug misuse and engage in prevention activities. Drugs corrode communities and destroy lives. They create despair. It is essential to give young people a lead, and our communities real hope. People need to see pathways out of that despair, and they need support for their efforts to protect their communities. The Executive is therefore allocating an additional £1 million to the Scotland Against Drugs campaign, to increase its existing community and business work through the Scottish challenge fund. The purpose is to expand the work being done by individuals and community groups.

If drug misuse is to be tackled effectively in Scotland, the whole community needs to be involved and to take ownership of the problem. Given the right lead and support, communities will organise to protect themselves. I have already mentioned Mothers Against Drugs as an example.

Many community groups have clear ideas about tackling drug misuse, and some valuable projects have already been developed. I am therefore pleased to announce today that the Executive is making available an extra £1 million in each of the next two years to fund work in communities to tackle drug misuse. Those resources will be made available through social inclusion partnerships. The community dimension will be vital. SIPs already include community representatives, and we expect proposals for funding to be developed with the active involvement of the community and drug action teams.

The Executive also recognises the importance for those working in the front line of Scotland's drug problems to have access to effective and structured training. Training of staff is critical. Drug workers need proper training, as well as being informed and knowledgeable. A wide range of work is already taking place in that regard. Organisations such as Fast Forward are involved in drugs awareness training, not just for drug workers, but for parents, teachers and employers. We are trying to achieve a culture of information and awareness, not ignorance. Therefore, we will be announcing an important new training initiative in the coming three months.

I want to refer briefly to drug enforcement. Much has been said about the drugs enforcement agency. Members will almost certainly be aware of the scope of its remit and its budget, but it will have a role beyond enforcement. Once the director of the agency is appointed next month, the agency will turn its mind to operational implementation. However, the agency will not just be about enforcement; it will be about working with the community-based organisations supporting former drug users back into work and family life. The new agency will have a dedicated Scotland-wide liaison officer post. That individual will work with police in the community and in schools to liaise directly with those delivering education and rehabilitation services.

I am coming close to the end of my allotted time, so I unfortunately I will have to cut my contribution short. I shall refer briefly to drug action teams. We expect drug action teams and their partners at a local level to deliver on the strategy. We are finding out where action is not being taken or where action is slow. That information will be an important focus for our actions in the coming weeks and months. We will not hesitate to act when problems arise, be they general problems or specific to individual drug action teams.

We are moving forward in meeting a range of tough challenges. We have invested more in measures that have a proven effect. We have improved the information and intelligence base for tackling drug misuse. That will be boosted by the national prevalence study that is already under way. We are examining what is spent on drug misuse and how it is spent. We are evaluating strategies that work, learning from Scottish and international experience. That, and the work of the new effectiveness unit, will guide our future investment.

The Scottish Executive has put tackling drug misuse at the heart of its work and we hope that other agencies will do the same.

I move,

That the Parliament commends the multi-agency role of the key agencies across Scotland in implementing Tackling Drugs in Scotland: Action in Partnership; acknowledges the Executive's support for the agencies involved in implementing the priorities and strategy, and welcomes the Executive's cross-cutting approach and the efforts being made to reverse the tragic level of drug deaths and drug misuse in Scotland.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 10:36 am, 20th January 2000

We are all keen to make the most of this opportunity to debate what is a serious issue for the whole of Scotland. Drug legislation, specifically the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, is reserved to Westminster. Despite that, we have all recognised that in many of the devolved areas—health, education and justice, for example—there is the capacity for an enormous amount of work to be done and for effective change to take place. Scotland can still be an example to the rest of the United Kingdom if it chooses to be. We can be an example of best practice and achievement rather than a provider of depressing statistics, which appears to be our role at the moment. That means that this Parliament can play an important role in the debate. Are we doing so?

Today's debate should be as constructive as possible. We might not all agree on every aspect of the way forward, but we agree that a way forward must be found, for the good of all Scotland. The problem is enormously complex. If there were simple answers, we would have found them by now. Some of the things that are currently being done might not work; others that have not been tried might succeed. The complex nature of the problem becomes clear when we consider that there is not only one problem but a series of them. It follows that there cannot be one solution. That poses a policy challenge for us all.

Different drugs are used in different ways, often by different groups of people. Cocaine is used across society and its use has increased exponentially in the past decade. Information has, in the past, suggested that most cocaine users are professionals and, because such individuals normally have the financial means to support their drug use, the authorities have remained unaware of the extent of the use of the drug. We usually receive only anecdotal information about it from our newspapers or from certain scenes on football fields. Recent information suggests that the pattern of the use of the drug might be changing. If that is true, it will be interesting to see whether the tone of media coverage of the problem changes. There are signs that that is happening.

Not so long ago, heroin was cheaper than cannabis, a fact that helped fuel its widespread use. The European Union drugs monitoring survey suggests that 2 per cent of British 15 and 16-year-olds have tried heroin at least once. I would suggest that that puts Mo Mowlam's recent confession of past cannabis use into perspective. Heroin seems to be the UK's drug of choice—the same survey indicated that nearly half of all heroin seized in the European Union is seized in the UK. We all know the serious problems that Scotland has with heroin. Although the survey does not allow us to ascertain the Scottish figure, there is an apprehension that the figure would be higher than 2 per cent in that age group.

We know that cannabis is used widely. The survey indicated that almost 40 per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds in England and Wales had tried cannabis; the figure is probably higher in Scotland. The debate surrounding the use of cannabis is familiar to most of us—some members might speak about that issue today—so it will be sufficient to say that most people do not put cannabis in the same category as drugs such as heroin. That fact is reflected in its classification in the legislation. On top of that, there is the problem posed by the so-called recreational drugs, principally ecstasy, and the additional difficulties that arise as a result of amphetamine and tranquilliser use and abuse.

None of that addresses the problems that are posed in society by alcohol abuse. If there are many offenders in our courts for whom one might reasonably say that the real reason for their appearance is their drug habit, the same can be said, perhaps even more emphatically, about alcohol. There has been much debate in the press recently about the shocking drug death statistic in Strathclyde, with 146 drug-related deaths in 1999, an increase of 50 per cent on the previous year. That is an appallingly high number. Equally appalling would be the number of directly alcohol-related deaths in the same one-year period: it would be four figures, not three.

By raising the issue of alcohol abuse, it is not my intention to minimise the drug problem; instead, it is an attempt to widen the debate to deal with the issue of what might be better termed substance abuse and, separately, the question of addiction. In a sense, what we are doing when we seek answers to the various drug problems and set in place the appropriate rehabilitation resources is to deal with the very real medical question of addiction.

I will leave a more detailed discussion of that to those who may be better qualified than myself on the medical side. The point that I wish to make, in raising the issue here, is that what is required is a strategy that deals across the board with the problem of addiction. As we all know, addiction is not confined to illegal drugs. Any national strategy in Scotland must, as the Executive motion recognises, operate on a multi-agency basis. That should include a realistic and pragmatic approach to reducing the demand, together with accessible education packages and an acceptance that harm limitation has a part to play.

I confess that I am losing track a little of the number of units, task forces and groups that are being set up. I notice that more were announced today; it would be useful if at some point we could see a chart that clearly identifies all those that are in practice and how they work with each other. It should be part of the approach that there is regular research carried out that identifies both successes and failures. I hope that some of what the minister announced today will help that. We should not be shy about making clear assessments of what has not worked and why it has not worked. It is better to establish that one approach is not appropriate than to try no approach at all. In turn, failure should be seen not as a disaster, but as the elimination of one particular way of dealing with an issue.

However, identifying successful ventures carries with it a heavy responsibility. We cannot be in the business of doing what happens frequently: money is put into pilot projects or schemes that provide options to the few individuals who are lucky enough to live in the catchment area but which, successful or not, never seem to be followed up anywhere else. That leads to a patchy mishmash of provision, a form of postcode lottery.

It is not just in this particular area that that can happen. I understand the need and the desire to roll out schemes on a pilot basis. Indeed, that is often the only way to start the process. The problem is how to turn the pilot into something that operates right across the country, which is where we begin to fail in Scotland. It is not something that is confined only to the past couple of years; it has been endemic for decades.

Many members may wish to express concern about the lack of provision in their own areas—I know that such concern exists. Often, the lack of resources impacts on other aspects of dealing with the problem. One of the biggest difficulties we face in Scotland is that unevenness of provision. I hope that the minister will directly address that difficulty in his closing remarks.

I turn to some aspects of the debate that fall more neatly into the justice remit, but which were not heavily canvassed in the minister's initial contribution. The Scottish National party is keen to learn about best practice in other countries. The minister has frequently, although not today, expressed his admiration for the work that the Irish have been doing in the area of criminal assets confiscation. I wish to raise some specific questions with him about his understanding of that experiment, which is very popular in Ireland.

According to some sources in Ireland, the operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau has forced several major drug dealers to relocate their assets—and in some cases, their criminal activities—abroad, primarily to the UK, Netherlands and Spain. From the Irish point of view, that is a desirable outcome. However, it may be less desirable from the point of view of the countries on the receiving end of those displaced persons and activities. It might be argued that, by this means, every jurisdiction will be forced to adopt the same policy and, eventually, such activity will be displaced from the European Union altogether. That will take some considerable time.

Does the minister have any comment to make about the likely effect on our near neighbours in Europe and the rest of the United Kingdom if Scotland chooses to go down the same road as Ireland?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Members of the European Union have for some time been actively engaged in discussion about how we can create a uniform network of approaches to civil forfeiture. We are actively involved in discussions with the Home Office about legislating in Scotland, if that is seen to be appropriate.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I know that discussions take place at a European level about several transnational problems, including drugs. I have some concerns about the lack of direct involvement of the Scottish ministers with the European debate. Perhaps we should come back to the matter in a different debate.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

Will the member answer a question? Between 1994 and 1999, the SNP's two MEPs, Winnie Ewing and Allan Macartney, were members of the rainbow group, the European Radical Alliance. That group included the Transnational Radical party, the main aim of which was the legalisation of all drugs, across Europe. Members of that party were regularly arrested and prosecuted for the distribution and abuse of drugs in public places; in one case a member was dressed as Santa Claus. Will Ms Cunningham explain how her views sit with those of Winnie Ewing in relation to that?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The member will recall that I prefaced my remarks by saying that I hoped that the debate would be constructive. Although I have questions for the Executive, I am trying to put them reasonably and sincerely, to elicit information. I do not think that comments such as those made by the member are in any way helpful to the debate.

I would like to return to the question of the Criminal Assets Bureau. Try as I might, I can get no clear statistics—

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

My question deserves an answer.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Order. Are you making a point of order, or are you intervening?

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

The member has not answered the question.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Are you addressing your point to Ms Cunningham?

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Ms Cunningham, will you take that point?

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

No, I am not taking another intervention from the member.

I can get no clear statistics to support the proposition that the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau has led to a perceptible reduction in the amount of drugs entering and sold in Ireland. As the onus of proof in cases involving the bureau is on the accused—which runs counter to every established precept of Scots law—only one individual whose assets have been seized has thus far been convicted of a recognisably criminal offence. I believe that the person was convicted of murder and not of dealing drugs. Does the minister have different information and, if so, will he take the opportunity to add that to the debate?

I hope that the minister agrees that it would be most unfortunate if we moved to a situation in which we taxed dealers punitively by this method, yet did not take them off the streets. That may be one reason why no model has yet been proposed for Scotland—perhaps, despite the initial interest, a closer inspection showed that the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau has not been the success in reality that it has been in terms of public relations.

There are questions to be asked about the drugs enforcement agency, to which the minister referred. I have some concerns about what has been announced so far. The Executive seems to have launched the agency with no clearly set targets and despite the fact that other agencies that are involved in enforcement, such as Customs and Excise, have had to endure cuts over the years.

To the concerns about the direction of the drugs enforcement agency must be added the furore over the clawback of £13 million from the Scottish Prison Service, a cut that will lead directly to job losses and prison closures. I have some quotations from the minister that directly contradict quotations from the person who is presumably his boss in the Cabinet. I refer the minister to today's report in The Scotsman about the number of deaths that occur in the weeks immediately following release from prison. That suggests that the problem of drugs in prison is not, as yet, being addressed properly. We are taking money out of the Prison Service—perhaps there should be a rethink on that.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

It may be that the drugs enforcement agency will be a resounding success. However, there is a lack of any substantial information on anything but its immediate future. Without that information, it is difficult to come to any reasonable judgment. I hope that the minister will address some of those questions, and the ones that I suspect my colleagues will put later in the debate.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I will take the opportunity to pass on to Roseanna Cunningham some information that I think may be helpful. At the time of the launch of the drugs enforcement agency, we set out its key objectives. The director of the new agency will be appointed next month. It will be for the director to establish the operational objectives of the agency, as is appropriate, and there will certainly be an opportunity for comment at that stage. I do not think that anyone could reasonably expect the Executive to set out directly those operational objectives—that would break all known precedents for policing agencies.

We have not cut the budget of the Scottish Prison Service. The base budget of the service will rise in succeeding years from this point onwards. That should be emphasised from the start. No drug rehabilitation services in prisons will be affected by the transfer of £13 million into the broader Executive budget.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The information in The Scotsman today suggests that the rehabilitation services in prisons are not sufficient to deal with the problem.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Well, the ministers say that it is different, but no matter what Mr MacKay says, £13 million has been taken out of the Scottish Prison Service, money that may well have been better used within the service to do the kinds of things that are required.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

No, I have a time limit, which—even if the Presiding Officer adds on time to allow for interventions—will cause me difficulties.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I will add only a very little time.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

The drugs enforcement agency is an idea that originated in the United States of America, and the Criminal Assets Bureau is an Irish example for us to consider. Another example from international experience, which might be useful for us in Scotland to consider, is one that I have raised before: drugs courts. They are beginning to spring up in many countries, for example, in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, as I understand it, in Ireland too, as of this month. The aim of those courts is to provide a treatment-led response to drugs and drugs-related crime, a response that builds on a partnership between law enforcement agencies and treatment services.

The minister has mentioned that part of the drugs enforcement agency's work will be done in partnership with some of those agencies. That would be another way of building that into the justice system. The courts bridge the gap between punishment and treatment for the user, and not—it should be emphasised—for the dealer. The discipline that is imposed on the offender is very challenging, and failure to comply is likely to result in a return to the mainstream courts and a swift incarceration thereafter.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

No, if the minister does not mind, I would like to continue, as I am struggling for time.

The individuals who are dealt with in drugs courts may be those who appear because of drugs-related offences. However, the courts may also target people who are there for apparently non-drugs-related offences, but for whom the real problem is their substance abuse.

I note that the Scottish Drugs Forum has gone public in calling for the introduction of drugs courts in Scotland. In the past, ministers have not wanted to dismiss the idea completely; but this particular minister has apparently gone on record as saying that he believed that the American system could not be used in Scotland's current judicial set-up. I am not clear why he thinks that. Scotland's court structure provides opportunities for the development of such drugs courts; equally, the children's panel system offers a culture of non-adversarial proceedings that could be extended into adult courts.

The point about the model of drugs courts that is beginning to appear in the countries that I listed earlier is that they are essentially methods by which we can divert from custody those for whom the drugs courts represent the next most likely disposal option for the judge. Entry into the programme occurs within days of arrest, and not when people appear before the court at a trial. The courts are fast working. They are not the whole answer, but they may be part of an answer. To work properly, they require investment in the infrastructure of rehabilitation and through care.

As Scotland is not a model of provision, I concede that, at this stage, the only reasonable option is to develop a model that is appropriate for Scotland's justice system and pilot it in an area where the provision of back-up services is at least adequate. One positive suggestion is the introduction of drugs courts. As already mentioned, the Scottish Drugs Forum has endorsed the idea and I understand that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has been actively considering it for some time. It fits perfectly with the multi-agency approach that is vital if we are to make any headway with the overall problem. I commend it to the minister.

I also ask the minister to give serious backing to the proposal for a committee of the Parliament, which we have suggested should be called the substance misuse strategy committee—although I will not go to the barricades about the committee's title. It is vital for the Parliament to take ownership of the growing problem of substance abuse in Scotland. Such a committee, the members of which could come from the various interested committees, would perfectly reflect the multi-agency commitment in the Executive's motion.

At the moment, it is possible for all four of the named committees—Justice and Home Affairs, Education, Culture and Sport, Health and Community Care and Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector—to address at any one time some aspect of the debate as part of their own agendas, but in isolation from each other. In a sense, the Parliament currently reflects the lack of co-ordination of approach and we need to take our own rhetoric on board.

Doing so would send out a signal to all other parties in the debate that we are really serious about the multi-agency approach. I know that the minister is likely to counter that comment with reference to his task force; however, the important issue to address is that we in this chamber were elected by Scots voters to find Scottish answers to the very real problems in our society. If we do not respond with a more consistent approach than the occasional debate or the occasional inclusion of the subject in the busy agendas of already overworked committees, we might find ourselves being judged harshly by those very voters.

For no other reason than that, I urge the chamber to support the SNP's amendment.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I am grateful to the member for sticking to the time limit, and I would be even more grateful if she would formally move amendment S1M-437.2.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I move amendment S1M-437.2, to leave out from "acknowledges" to end and insert:

"recognises that there is neither a single drug problem nor a single solution; is concerned that at present there are insufficient resources available to those who desire to address the problems of addiction; welcomes the contribution which can be made to the debate by reference to international experience and, accepting that a cross-cutting approach is required to deal with the challenge posed to society by substance abuse, agrees to reflect that in the Parliament itself by the establishment of a Substance Misuse Strategy Committee which would facilitate the multi-agency debate required."

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative 10:58 am, 20th January 2000

I will begin by expressing my thanks to the Executive for responding so quickly to my request. A full debate on tackling drugs misuse in Scotland is long overdue and my colleagues and I hope that, unlike yesterday, we can share a common purpose with members on all sides of the chamber.

The purpose of my amendment is not to deter the Executive, but to encourage it to be as bold and radical in tackling drugs misuse as the problem demands. I hope that the Executive will accept the amendment in the helpful and constructive spirit in which it is offered.

Time and again, poll after poll has shown us that the social consequences of drugs misuse is the single issue of greatest concern to Scots. To begin with, we should try to engage those people for whom drugs is the scourge of their lives and to speak to them in a language and a manner with which they can identify.

The term "recreational drugs" is an important and commonly used term that we must eradicate from use. I hope that we can reach a consensus today to banish it from our vocabulary. It is a misnomer in everyday use. For the public to identify with our debate, we must deal with the reality that there are two drugs cultures. I will return later to the distinction between them. However, we will not allow this issue to be trivialised by allowing reference to recreational drugs.

A dictionary definition of the word "recreation" is refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment; an activity or pastime that promotes that; or an interval of free time between school lessons. The horror of the reality is that, all too often, the interval between lessons is indeed when some of our youngsters abuse drugs. I have a shocking memory of visiting a school as a lay member of an HM inspection team when the police were called because a youngster had been found in possession of illegal drugs. That was in the same week as the burial of a child at the same school who had died as a consequence of drug involvement. The reality is that children die.

Our amendment seeks to support and uphold every effort to save lives and to save people from the misery and degradation that drug misuse trails in its wake. Any reference to recreational drugs is misplaced and profoundly misleading. Indeed, in addition to moving my amendment, I move that we strike the term from parliamentary language.

I mentioned earlier the distinction that exists between two drugs cultures in our society. The first—and profoundly more evil—is the culture of the habitual drug user, hooked on the hardest drugs, who feeds his or her habit by pursuit of criminal activity. That lifestyle cannot be hidden from family and friends, because the user is preoccupied with his or her next fix, without time or compassion for the trail of devastation that they leave in their wake.

The second culture is quite different and distinct and we alienate the people involved in it at our peril. That culture is inhabited by young professionals, students and youths on a night out with their friends, funded by their mum and dad. Theirs is the culture of the casual user of drugs such as ecstasy, speed, hash and sulph. That club culture is where our teenagers and 20-somethings choose to spend their time. It is a distinct and different problem for us to address.

We are not talking about the discos and clubs that people my age look back to with fond memories of "Disco Inferno" the first time around. We had enough to contend with dealing with the other drugs—alcohol and tobacco. Those are also serious problems and I am sure that Mrs Deacon would agree that the use and abuse of those legal drugs have huge health implications. Today, however, we are concerned with illegal drugs.

Clubbers do not see themselves as criminals to be condemned, but they must be included in the debate so that we can understand what motivates them to endanger their lives without any prospect of long-term gain. Clubbers are young people with hopes and aspirations, typically from backgrounds where there is a support mechanism, in contrast to the habitual user.

Before anyone argues that the risk to life is marginal, we should think about previous deaths and remember Leah Betts and others. They never thought that it could happen to them, but their families will testify to the outcome of one bad drug and one bad piece of advice.

The club culture user is unlikely to land in prison alongside the users who fund their appetite for drugs through crime. However, what the two cultures share is the source of the material—a callous, calculating drug dealer. I have already referred to prisons. Criminal activity of every kind deserves the appropriate punishment. It is for the courts to decide on the best course of rehabilitation for those who break the law to fund their drug habit. Nevertheless, the dealer is a far more desirable target for imprisonment. For them, there can be no sympathy. Clearly, the public interest is best served by removing dealers from our streets, but sentencing policy does not serve as a big enough deterrent. Now is the time to toughen up our position and to send a clear message to those who pollute society and prey on its weakest members.

Today, we on the Conservative benches make it clear that, having listened to the public, we are committed to implementing a minimum sentence of two years' served imprisonment for dealers. That is in distinct contrast to a sentence of two years that means 12 months, which is anything but an effective deterrent. The sentence that dealers hear in court should be the sentence that they serve.

Prisons have an important part to play in the rehabilitation of offenders detained as a result of drugs. Dealers require incarceration as a penalty for their deeds and as a deterrent to reoffending, but drug users require rehabilitation and, importantly, reasons to stay clean on their release. Our Prison Service therefore needs the resources to tackle the smuggling of drugs into our jails and their illicit use inside. The statistics of the Minister for Justice, provided to me prior to the Christmas recess, show that the prisons are being starved of those resources, which the Conservatives intend to provide—and I entirely share Roseanna Cunningham's thoughts about the prison system.

In addition, we must ensure that programmes are available within jails that successfully wean users off the drugs that got them there in the first place.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

The deputy minister has assured us today that there are no cuts in the rehabilitation services as currently provided in prisons. Is Mrs McIntosh aware that the through-care services provided by external agencies, for example by Drugs Action to Aberdeen prison, have been cut because of the cuts in local health service budgets?

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

I am aware of that and I condemn the cuts. We have spoken briefly about that matter on an all-party group. It is also a question of through care after people leave prison. There is little reason to get someone clean when they are in jail if they are let out on to the streets without having someone there to provide the support that they need once released.

Structured programmes such as supervised methadone prescription and consumption are beneficial, provided adequate safeguards accompany their use. Is it ethical, however, to maintain people on methadone for what is left of their lives? The amount must be reduced over time, because methadone is more dangerous than heroin. The supply must be controlled so that the strength and also the amount that the user consumes is reduced to facilitate the sustainable non-use of heroin.

It is important that the taking of methadone is supervised: all too often, users are now—I hate this word—regurgitating their methadone for sale on the black market. I apologise if any members have just come here from breakfast. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the unsavoury side of the matter, but it is a fact of life.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

If it is a very brief one. Is it about regurgitating that part of my speech? I could not face it again.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

It is commonly known as spit-back.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

We are aware of statistics on methadone use in Strathclyde provided today in various newspapers. Is Mrs McIntosh aware that in Grampian, in one recent year, there were more deaths caused principally by methadone than by heroin?

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

That is undoubtedly a shocking statistic.

The sale of methadone on the black market can be easily dealt with if the methadone is taken in front of a supervisor, be it a doctor or a pharmacist. If the client is forcibly retained for a reasonable period of time after the methadone has been consumed, that provides a sensible, structured approach to those genuinely wanting to kick their drug habit by getting weaned off heroin. Greater Glasgow Health Board has been in the van, thanks to the efforts of Dr Laurence Gruer.

Let us speak here today, and in communities tomorrow, in the language that people identify with. Let the message be loud and clear: the Scottish Parliament is so committed to tackling drug misuse that a minister with sole responsibility will lead the team—I am trying to talk up Angus MacKay's job.

The Scottish Conservatives are clear about their objectives, and on the methods of achieving them. Dealers are going to get it; users are going to get the support they need. Victims of the consequences of drug use and misuse will get priority treatment. Helping people with a vested interest in cleaning up their communities is paramount. There is a lot of help out there, some good, and some not so good—the deputy minister alluded to that. Millions of pounds are invested in drugs programmes; we have a duty to ensure that the very best value is achieved for every penny. Let us see what works, and use it.

The all-party parliamentary group is keen as mustard that the best programmes are implemented. It is happy to share any information and knowledge that it gains. I urge members who have not yet partaken to get involved with the group. Let us support the professionals and those with the proven methods that we require to succeed. Let us never again flippantly refer to drug use as a recreational activity. Recreation means football, bowling, tennis, fishing or going to the pictures. After that sort of recreation people can expect to live. Drugs kill.

I move amendment S1M-437.1, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"while welcoming the Executive's cross-cutting approach and the efforts being made to reverse the tragic level of drug deaths and drug misuse in Scotland, notes that the present framework for dealing with drug abuse is exceptionally bureaucratic and complicated and calls upon the Scottish Executive to appoint a minister with sole responsibility for drugs within existing ministerial numbers and budgets to help streamline this system, making it more easily understood and accessible to the people it seeks to serve."

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 11:10 am, 20th January 2000

I welcome the debate and hope that it will become an annual event to have a general, all-day debate on tackling drug misuse in Scotland. I also hope that we will have specific debates on aspects of the issue. We look forward to the appointment of the director of the drugs enforcement agency and to his setting the agency's operational objectives. Shortly after that happens, we should have a debate on the agency.

The Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee is about to embark on a detailed inquiry into the impact of drug misuse on deprived areas. I do not want to speculate on when that inquiry will be concluded, but it may be some time in the summer, and in the autumn I hope that we will debate the committee's report in the chamber. That seldom happens with select committee reports in the House of Commons and I hope that we will not adopt the extremely bad habit of not debating what are often excellent reports.

Liberal Democrats are concerned about the imbalance in the UK Government's approach to and expenditure on tackling drug misuse. Of a total expenditure of £1.4 billion, 75 per cent is spent on enforcement, 13 per cent on treatment and 12 per cent on education. That is despite the finding of the Department of Health's research study on national treatment outcomes in April 1998 that for every £1 spent on treatment, £3 is saved elsewhere. I was reassured by the tone of the speech by the Deputy Minister for Justice, which suggested that the emphasis is beginning to change. This is a partnership Government, and we look forward to that change of emphasis. It is important that we do not replicate the UK imbalance in Scotland.

I was concerned by the reported remarks of the Deputy Minister for Justice at the joint Scottish Drugs Forum and COSLA seminar on drugs and crime on 28 September. It is always dangerous to concentrate on one excerpt from a speech, but I understand that he said that the short-term priority was enforcement, with treatment and rehabilitation for drugs misusers being a medium-term priority.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Not yet—I want to finish the point. We must have a change of emphasis to treatment, rehabilitation and education. I was reassured by what the Deputy Minister for Justice said today—if he wants to reassure me further, I will give way.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

It has always been the Executive's approach to take a balanced way forward. This is not a matter of our having either enforcement or rehabilitation and education; it is a matter of doing both. In the remarks to which the member refers, I was trying to convey our belief that, in the short term, the most immediate impact on drug misuse may come through enforcement, but that, in the medium and longer terms, rehabilitation and education will deliver the goods.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I am reassured by that, but we need to see the evidence—

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I am not going to give way again at this stage. We need to see the evidence of that balance in terms of spending. As I said, the Government's own figures show that for every £1 spent on treatment, £3 is saved elsewhere. I want to be constructive, but we need to focus more on treatment and rehabilitation.

As the Deputy Minister for Justice said, the ministerial group is cross-cutting, with justice and home affairs, communities, education and—[MEMBERS: "Health."]—and health. It is all right, I have got there. I hesitated because I was not sure whether I had them in the right order as I cover them in my speech.

I would like to mention, first, justice and enforcement and in particular the drugs enforcement agency. In the past few weeks, I have met one chief constable and one deputy chief constable. I will not name them, but they both have concerns about the DEA. One of them felt—and I will happily discuss this with the minister, as it is important—that resources would be better spent on treatment. The other was more concerned with the operational effects; he was worried that he might lose some of his senior drugs officers to the agency, which would create difficulties for him in his force area. There are reservations and it is important that we carry senior police officers with us if there is to be an effective drugs enforcement agency.

On 6 October 1999, the Minister for Finance announced a comprehensive audit to cover treatment, rehabilitation and education. I know that the minister is in touch with what is going on, but many voluntary agencies in particular are concerned about what seems to be an obsession with measuring effectiveness rather than with helping to improve effectiveness. I am not saying that they are right, but that audit should be independent, and not, as the minister said, internal; it should be across the board and cover enforcement. I am not against having an audit, for the good reason that Roseanna Cunningham gave, which is that there are 112 agencies operating in this field. A chart should be drawn up or—to use the trendy term—a mapping exercise should be conducted. That would allow us to see how all the agencies relate to one another so that duplication of functions can be avoided and co- ordination can be ensured.

I am not going to cover too many points relating to justice in my speech. My colleague Euan Robson will, in winding up for the Liberal Democrats, cover the issues of drug courts, forfeiture of assets and decriminalisation. However, I want to make some points about prisons, of which I have visited three in the past year—HM Prison Edinburgh, HM Establishment Cornton Vale and HM Prison Aberdeen. Figures are bandied about, but we all know that 70 to 80 per cent of prisoners use drugs at some stage and that many are in prison for drugs-related offences. Visitors' facilities in some prisons are totally inadequate, HM Prison Aberdeen at Craiginches being a case in point. Visitors' facilities are the main route into prison for drugs and Craiginches needs more adequate facilities that can be more easily monitored by prison officers.

I am strongly in favour of drug-free zones, but counselling and treatment within prisons ranges from the inadequate to the non-existent. I make no criticism of prison governors, all of whom I have been impressed by, including, most recently, Kate Donegan at Cornton Vale. They do their best in difficult circumstances, but Parliament must examine the issue. It is of no use merely to get prisoners off drugs cold turkey—we must provide treatment and counselling. We should follow the excellent Simpsons House prisoner offenders project model of through care. There is no point in offering treatment and counselling services in prisons if prisoners will then just go back to using drugs with the people and in the places that they used to. We must provide through care. Current provision is totally inadequate.

I would be grateful if the minister would, in winding up, refer to CARATs schemes—counselling, assessment, referral and advice through care services schemes—which have been introduced in English prisons. They are financed by the UK Government, which will give them £60 million over three years. Under that scheme, a prison applies to have a drug treatment unit. Tenders are then invited from drug treatment specialists; when a tender has been accepted, a unit will be installed. There is no similar scheme in Scotland, but I have heard that the Scottish Prison Service had expected that some of the £13 million might have gone towards funding such a project in Scottish prisons. We must examine urgently the introduction of a similar scheme in Scottish prisons.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I must press on. I apologise to Dr Simpson—he and I have similar thoughts on many of the issues. I am sure that he will make his points in his own speech.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I thank Mr Raffan. The English scheme to which he referred is very important. The English prison system developed from being behind our system to the point where it is ahead of our system. Does he agree that it is important not only that the English Prison Service has focused on that issue as a priority, but that there has been an insistence on schemes being developed with agencies in the prisons' local communities? The schemes must involve a comprehensive through-care system, which the English are developing, whereas we are not.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I absolutely agree with Dr Simpson. Frankly, there is no point instituting such a scheme, spending money on it or investing in treatment—residential or otherwise—unless through care or after care, such as halfway houses following residential treatment, are provided. That point was made strongly to Sylvia Jackson, the member for Stirling, and me during our recent visit to Cornton Vale. Dr Simpson is absolutely right—through care is crucial.

I wish to move on to the community ministry responsibilities for the drug action teams, which are responsible for co-ordinating strategies. The idea was that they would authorise policy development and expenditure, but we all know that their results have been variable. One or two have been successful, such as the team in Glasgow in particular, whereas others have not. That has been disappointing—strategies may have been developed, but the different bodies that come together in drug action teams have not brought money to the table.

A recent evaluation showed the need for greater cohesion locally and nationally, to which the minister himself referred. The important issues are the dissemination of best practice throughout the drug action teams—three of which are, I think, drug and alcohol action teams—and to fill the gaps, such as the one in Tayside.

I hope that the minister will respond to the point about the new futures fund, which is managed by Scottish Enterprise; from a total of 80 projects that it funds, 12 or 13 are pilot community projects related to drugs. I would like those pilot projects to be extended.

If my colleague, Ian Jenkins, catches the Presiding Officer's eye, he will say more on education, from his experience as a former secondary school teacher. However, the statistics speak for themselves: 15 per cent of drug misusers in Scotland are under 20 and 32 per cent are between 20 and 24. Moreover, 63 per cent started having serious problems when they were under 20, which highlights the crucial role of education. The February 1999 report by Her Majesty's inspectors pointed out some weaknesses in drug education and a lack of policy in the management of drug misuse incidents in and around schools.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

No—I have taken enough interventions and I really must make progress.

There is too much variation from one education authority to another. We need best practice to be shared and we must emphasise the importance of making information available outside schools. It is a sad truth, but when pupils are told something by adults in schools, they tend to rebel against it, whereas when they hear something from their peers or youth workers in drop-in centres, they tend to listen. That is a crucial difference.

We need more of the excellent drop-in centres for young people, such as the Youth Advice Project in Inverurie, The Corner in Dundee and Off the Record in Stirling. Those centres are as valuable—if not more so—as what is taught in schools in terms of drugs education. Should Donald Gorrie catch the Presiding Officer's eye, I know that he would like to say more about drugs education and youth.

I also wish to praise the work of Crew 2000 in the dance and rave scene. Every weekend there are, on average, 500,000 ecstasy users in the UK. Crew 2000 is an excellent example of youth workers working with young people; young people respect and listen to them and they achieve an enormous amount in terms of harm reduction. When Lloyd Quinan and I attended Crew 2000's recent annual general meeting, we were impressed by the quality of the debate and discussions.

I have a range of points to make about health and will try to be as quick as I can. We must not be committed to any one treatment model, as we need variation in the type of treatment. However, we do not want variation in the availability and quality of treatment. That is a crucial distinction—treatment must be available throughout Scotland. Roseanna Cunningham referred to "unevenness", which is a better word than "variation", as it is more critical and, possibly, more accurate. We must try to raise the quality of treatment in many areas because currently there is unacceptable variation between health boards.

For example, the areas covered by Ayrshire and Arran Health Board and Fife Health Board are demographically similar—both are made up of small communities. However, drug treatment services are far better in Ayrshire and Arran than in Fife. That may be because in Ayrshire and Arran they are consultant led. The consultant responsible is the rather charismatic Dr Charles Lind. When I asked Dr Lind how he managed to get the resources out of his health board, he said quite simply that he did it by being a pain in the ass. We need more consultants in the different health board areas who are effective pains in the ass so that we can get treatment improved. In Ayrshire and Arran the service is consultant led, but Fife Health Board has yet again delayed appointing a consultant. That may be the crucial difference.

Needle exchange is crucial. We have four needle exchanges in Fife for 4,000 to 5,000 injectors. During the minister's speech, I made the point that not only needle exchange but provision of aluminium spoons is crucial. Even if people have new needles, they can still get hepatitis C if they are sharing spoons. I do not think that I made that point clearly enough in my intervention. European countries provide not only fresh needles, but small disposable aluminium spoons—I have seen one of them, although they are illegal in this country—so that people do not have to share them. I do not need to tell the minister how potentially serious the hepatitis C situation in Scotland is. We have the figures from the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health; I am indebted to Dr Simpson for information on this question. Even SCIEH says that the figure of 8,000 infected is probably a severalfold underestimate. With Interferon for one patient costing £10,000 a year, one can quickly work out that, as one general manager of a health board told me, this is a time bomb. We must address this serious problem.

On residential in-patient treatment, we have 189 residential beds plus 24 short-stay crisis beds. Ninety-seven of the 189 are exclusively for drugs patients, as opposed to drugs and alcohol patients. That is not enough. We also do not have enough out-patient day care counselling centres. That must be looked at.

Where we really fall down completely, in my view, is on through care. There is no point in investing in residential treatment or, indeed, day treatment and counselling if we do not follow through with halfway houses or after care. Health boards and local authorities may pay for somebody to go into residential treatment for six weeks each, but what is the point if they are then sent straight back into the community from which they came? The first person whom they bump into in the street is their dealer. I know the situation in Buckhaven in Fife. I have had the mother of an addict show me where the dealers live. My God, she was brave. She fought for her son to get into the Links project down in Leith and then into a halfway house. However, she found herself being stopped in the street by her son's dealers and asked how he was and where he was. That shows how crucial through care is.

I agree with what has been said about methadone programmes. However, if they are not consultant led, GPs can be reluctant to prescribe and pharmacists can be reluctant to accept the script. The addict then goes back on heroin—again, I have encountered this in Fife—and returns to crime, particularly shoplifting, to finance his habit.

I want to say something about the speeches that were made by the spokespersons for the other parties. I say to Lyndsay McIntosh that we must do better than just having an extra minister. We do not need a tsar or an extra minister, as we already have four dealing with the issue.

There are practical problems with having a substance misuse strategy committee. As a convener, Roseanna Cunningham knows about the pressures on committees. We should remit this matter to the committee of conveners to be reconsidered in June, after the first inquiry by the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee has been completed.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

We now move to the open part of this debate. Members will have four minutes to speak. A number of members have indicated that they wish to speak, and it will not be possible to accommodate all of them this morning. However, names will be carried forward to this afternoon.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour 11:29 am, 20th January 2000

The first thing that we should acknowledge is that we are not winning the battle against drugs. There is no doubt about that. The minister has acknowledged that this is a major problem facing our society. It is not limited to the major cities—that notion needs to be put aside right away. Communities such as mine in Clackmannanshire are blighted by drugs. I was speaking to Professor Hannay, who used to be a professor of general practice down in Wigtown; he said that he despairs of the youth in that area, where the number involved in drugs increases daily.

Between 1998 and 1999 the number of charges for possession rose by 63 per cent, and the number of charges for supply rose by 13 per cent. Partly, that reflects the efficacy of the excellent police force in my area, but it also reflects the growth of the problem.

The minister's acceptance of the size of the problem and the establishment of the cross-cutting ministerial committee are welcome and important. The need for research and the constant evaluation of outcomes is vital. For example, £600,000 will be spent on new schemes on diversion, and there is money from the new futures funds for similar things. If the proposal in the SNP's amendment had been in addition to Executive's motion, I would have voted for it.

Lyndsay McIntosh referred to the number of deaths caused by the methadone programme. However, the savings in terms of the costs of crime are enormous. The movement of people who are addicts to programmes that begin to address their chaotic lifestyles and reduce the harm that they do is very important. We must not damage those programmes.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

I know that Dr Simpson's time is limited, and I hope that he will forgive me for interrupting his speech. I do not condemn the methadone programme; I want to ensure that people are not condemned to be on methadone for the rest of their lives.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I agree that the methadone programme should be a reduction programme. However, I had patients who had been on methadone—admittedly, on small doses of 5 ml or 10 ml—since the previous major heroin outbreak in the late 1960s, but who functioned normally. Total withdrawal is not necessarily the answer.

We do not support community pharmacists nearly enough. Would members, for 40p a day, supervise methadone addicts in their shop, in the presence of other customers? Addicts are very difficult and irritable people. The provision of adequate support must be made a priority. We need to expand the role of pharmacists and give them financial and other support.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

I am a pharmacist who was involved in such a scheme long before the present system was introduced. The scheme also used pharmacists to control the needle-exchange process, which involved a lot of technical support. Such work has to be done as a package so that there can be a system of needle exchanges across Scotland, like the four exchanges in Fife that Keith Raffan mentioned.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I entirely agree. Again, such schemes need to be properly funded.

I will give some figures on crime, which I mentioned in response to a question that David McLetchie asked Jim Wallace in a previous debate. In my area, 12 young men, aged between 17 and 25, who are addicts committed a total of 166 crimes—a significant proportion of crime in my area. The property that they stole was worth £78,000, but the recovery value was £18,000. They created additional property damage of £14,000. The police and support cost of dealing with those crimes was £348,000 and the cost of imprisonment of those young men was £100,000.

Have we got the balance right? Should we be doing this? I believe that the Executive's programmes on diversion, which it is carefully evaluating, are important. If Kate MacLean catches your eye, Presiding Officer, she will address the difficulty that courts have in securing adequate diversion schemes. We must promote such schemes.

We must break down the cycle of recidivism. The problem, to which Lyndsay McIntosh referred, is that if young men or women go to prison for only a week or 10 days, prisons cannot begin to treat them, so they return, half treated, into the community.

The Scottish Prison Service is producing a new strategy on drugs. I hope that that strategy will recognise the priority that must be given to the issue of drugs. I have concerns about the Prison Service's adequacy in dealing with this problem. It must consult outside agencies and its draft strategy should be available for wide consultation.

Today, I lodged a motion—in case the SNP's amendment was not accepted—that follows my proposal earlier in the session for a standing cross-cutting committee consisting of members from the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, the Health and Community Care Committee, the Justice and Home Affairs Committee and the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee. This Parliament must send a message that this issue is a major priority; the establishment of a cross-cutting committee would do that.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 11:35 am, 20th January 2000

Before I was elected to Parliament, I worked for many years in the health service, dealing with precisely the issues that we are debating today. I dealt with everything from the occupational health problems associated with drugs to the drug problem service arrangements, and from clinical toxicology at the point of arrival in accident and emergency to forensic toxicology after drugs-related deaths.

I also had the privilege of serving on a local council that was helping to develop the drugs strategy for the city of Aberdeen and worked in conjunction with Aberdeen's drug action team. I accept that there are differences in the success of drug action teams across the country. In my experience, there was a strategy but there was not much in the way of action. There was certainly not very much in the way of sharing budgets or direct provision. There was an awful lot of navel gazing, but not much action.

I am delighted with the amendment that my colleague, Roseanna Cunningham, has lodged. I am concerned that, in some areas, single solutions are being adopted. In my area, there is not much co-operation with community groups and voluntary agencies, and that is a matter for concern. There seems to be a narrow-minded view of how detoxification, rehabilitation and through care can be provided. As I said earlier, even in areas where external agencies are involved, funding is being cut.

We are regularly bombarded with news about the extent of the drug problem in Strathclyde, and I do not want to belittle the problem. The fact that there were 146 deaths there in 1999 is a matter of grave concern. However, there were 31 deaths in Grampian last year—a record number. On a per capita basis, that is considerably worse than the number of deaths in Strathclyde, and that has been the case consistently over the past four or five years.

Articles in today's press discuss the nature of the problem and the individual drugs that may be involved. I can tell members that, in my experience, the pattern of drug misuse in Grampian is completely different from that in other parts of the country. As I said during Lyndsay McIntosh's speech, the north-east's serious methadone problem is being tackled. I had the privilege recently of visiting a major retail chemist outlet in Aberdeen, where I witnessed the sensible approach that has been adopted to deal with the sensitive issues involved with methadone treatment—for pharmacists, for customers and for addicts. That major retailer was able to address the problems and I hope that we will see a reduction in the number of deaths associated with methadone.

People tend not to use just one drug. Addicts who are receiving treatment will typically take two or three drugs. It is rare for them to take only one and they may take up to five or six. Polypharmacy is used in an addict's conscious effort to manage the change from what is regarded as a positive drugs experience to a less positive experience. As Richard Simpson acknowledged, resources for drug treatment are undoubtedly insufficient.

I fully support the idea of a cross-cutting committee. Given my experience of committee work so far, I am not sure that I would necessarily want to serve on such a committee. Its membership should be drawn only from committees that are currently involved in investigating drug misuse. However, all members have the opportunity to attend any committee, and I should be delighted to take advantage of that opportunity should a committee be set up.

I am glad that we are dealing with the issue on a cross-party basis and I share the concerns of many members who have contributed to today's debate. Helen Eadie's earlier intervention was most inappropriate and I hope that there will be no more along similar lines. I encourage members to vote for the amendment that will allow the establishment of a cross-cutting committee. I commend the Scottish National party motion to the Parliament.

Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour 11:40 am, 20th January 2000

From across the political divides in the chamber, we have all witnessed the scourge of drugs and their effects on our constituencies, our communities and our people, in particular our children. Drug abuse is not unique to Scotland and is no respecter of geographical or political boundaries. As well as being a national and international problem, it affects all our communities.

The key to the fight against drugs is effective research and information that will allow resources to be targeted efficiently. That is why the Executive was right to target £41,000 to fund the research by police in Strathclyde and Fife into the links between drugs and crime, and to increase health board provision for drug treatment services by £2 million a year.

Such money allows the production of reports such as "Behavioural Patterns of Illicit Substance Users in Lanarkshire"—not a very snappy title, but an important document—which was published in 1998 by the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health. The report was funded by Lanarkshire Health Board and studied a representative sample of drug users in Lanarkshire. Its findings, helpful though they were in planning strategies to tackle drug abuse, made alarming reading, especially for me as a Lanarkshire MSP. The average age of drug users in Lanarkshire is 24 and 79 per cent are male. The preferred drugs of those who participated in the study were heroin and cannabis; 53 per cent of cannabis users stated that they used the drug daily. Ninety-seven per cent of cannabis users and 53 per cent of heroin users said that the drugs were "very or fairly easy" to obtain.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I, too, come from Lanarkshire and appreciate Mr McMahon's concern, but I wonder whether we are well served by those statistics. For example, in the part of Lanarkshire that I come from, the preferred drug of choice is not heroin or cannabis but cocaine, which is being used not by young, high-flying, high-earning executives, but by young kids like we were.

Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour

There is always a problem with statistics, and the one mentioned by Margo is important, but the ones that I mentioned are included in that particular report.

I am pleased that reducing the availability of drugs—of whatever type—is the new drugs enforcement agency's primary objective.

Far more alarming is the fact that the average age of respondents, when they first encountered drugs, was 14 and a half. Further, the centre for drug misuse research at the University of Glasgow reported in October 1997 that 32 per cent of pupils at Lanarkshire schools said that they had consumed an illegal drug. The offering of drugs to children is not acceptable in any decent society.

We know that drugs misuse does not stand alone, but is often linked with problem drinking. Other reports have shown that 83 per cent of respondents in Lanarkshire use drugs and alcohol simultaneously. In Lanarkshire, it is estimated that there is one alcohol-related death each working day and alcohol misuse costs the area's industry about £20 million annually. Margo MacDonald was right to say that the statistics are important across the board.

We must recognise that both drugs and alcohol cause significant problems that must be challenged. We know all too well that the battle against drugs is about more than statistics. Unfortunately, behind every statistic there is a person, who also has family and friends. One such person in my constituency was Annette McCallum, a 21-year-old mother from Viewpark, who died in November last year after taking an ecstasy tablet in a local disco.

As my local newspaper, the Bellshill Speaker, stated this week when it launched its anti-drugs campaign,

"It's easy to remember the faces of the victims, but people quickly forget about those who are left behind."

I welcome the newspaper's initiative and its commitment to people such as Phyllis Woodlock—whose son Andrew was Britain's youngest drugs victim when he died, also after taking one ecstasy tablet—in her campaign to ensure that her son's tragic death would not be in vain.

The Scottish drugs enforcement agency represents an innovative approach to tackling drugs. For the first time, Scotland will have an organisation that is dedicated to tackling and smashing organised drug crime in a co-ordinated fashion.

The battle against drugs requires a range of responses involving a multi-agency approach. That includes dealing with the economic circumstances that might lead to people taking drugs in the first place. As Phyllis Woodlock said,

"There is a need for us to find things for young people to do to keep them away from drugs."

That is absolutely right.

It is important that any new resources are not aimed solely at high school pupils. Drug education information packs should be made available in primary schools. That is central to communicating the anti-drugs message. To educate our children, we must start from an early age. Eleven per cent of S1 pupils in Lanarkshire are reported to have consumed an illegal drug. That is alarming enough, but the figure rises to 55 per cent by the time they have reached fourth year.

I hope that the cross-party consensus will continue in supporting the Executive's cross-cutting approach and the implementation of "Tackling Drugs in Scotland", and in sending a clear message from this Parliament that the scourge of drugs is not acceptable in this nation.

Photo of Ian Jenkins Ian Jenkins Liberal Democrat 11:46 am, 20th January 2000

I will try to be brief, because Michael McMahon mentioned points and statistics that I was going to use.

I pay tribute to the work in schools across the country. As Richard Simpson said, the problem is found across the country, and not just in city sink estates. However, teachers have a difficult line to tread. We have heard about enforcement and rehabilitation. Every day, teachers have to deal with the difficult situation in which someone who is caught with drugs in or near a school is an offender—I hope that they are not thought of as a sinner or a criminal—but they might be under pressure from peer groups and subject to cynical exploitation. Certainly, they are vulnerable.

I am worried that schools face the difficult situation of punishing people for offending while not reinforcing their sense of alienation. It is important that statistics and best practice are shared when they become available, and that money is spent to give teachers the support that they need. Money should be used to establish the halfway houses that Keith Raffan mentioned. In conjunction with the school guidance system, they could give a sympathetic hearing to pupils who feel that schools are too authoritarian. Schools need as much support as they can get.

The voluntary sector, such as youth groups, plays an important part in this area. Cross-cutting involves such groups, and that is why their funding is important. As Richard Simpson pointed out, drug-related crime has a phenomenal financial knock-on effect. As Michael McMahon pointed out, society, communities and families are affected.

It is important that we get at the root of the problem and get in early. Schools are practised at that. As the minister acknowledged in his speech, we must ensure that there are trained people with resources, and that there are good relationships between the police, social workers and the voluntary sector in and around schools, to tackle the problem early. Of course, that will not stop people joining the drugs culture later in life; the people whom I have met who are involved with alcohol and drugs were not of a criminal disposition when they started. If they went in that direction later, it was because we were unable to stop them earlier. Some kind of alienation or programme had started in them and was allowed to continue. Early intervention to tackle the problems is the secret.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 11:49 am, 20th January 2000

I welcome the opportunity to have this debate. I am almost tempted to follow Richard Simpson's line and say that I would like to vote both for the Executive's motion and for my party's amendment. However, I am slightly concerned that, although tribute has been paid to the huge amount of voluntary agencies and drug action teams and so on, we are in danger—unless we start rationalising fundamentally—of creating a drugs-solving industry, similar to the poverty industry that we have been accused of having. For that reason, I reserve judgment on the Executive's motion until I hear more about how the new bodies will operate.

What are the enormous financial and social resources tackling? Are we attempting to completely eradicate the use of drugs, including stimulants, opiates, tranquillisers, analgesics, nicotine, tobacco, cannabis, ecstasy, heroin and cocaine? Or does our approach to drug use uneasily acknowledge that drugs of some sort are used and abused by every society in the world? Today's debate seems to suggest the latter to be the case. Although much of what the minister said chimes with my thoughts on the matter, there was no definition of what was meant by the drug problem.

Keith Raffan, whose attention to the issue I respect, talked about a serious drug problem. How do we define that? Which drugs create a serious drug problem? Does a problem become serious only when crime is involved?

The Scottish National party's amendment acknowledges that the motion lacks definition. The amendment recognises that drug use and abuse is a multifaceted area for policy making. The minister described locally sensitive drugs strategies. Although nobody could disagree with the concept, we must ask how such a strategy would be operated in an area such as Lanarkshire. The drug action teams are under the aegis of the health board, which is not coterminous with the local authorities and the police authorities. How will the strategy work in a sensitive area when there is such a conflict in the boundaries of the agencies that are involved as well as a varying pattern of drug use?

When Lyndsay McIntosh made her presentation, she said that we should face up to our failures and be honest. When the minister talked about the audit process, it sounded as if that would happen. However, he also said that the Scotland Against Drugs campaign—which has no credibility with young people—would continue. I was one of the original people involved with Scotland Against Drugs. I set up Drugline. I am a former chair of the Scottish Drugs Forum. The relevance of many of the agencies that we have should be reconsidered—although the mapping exercise might turn out to be part of the drugs-solving industry.

We require a fundamental examination of which drugs are used, by whom and why. We need to know more about the medical and social effects of the different types of drug use. We have to do that before we commit resources to rehabilitation, detoxification and preventive programmes.

As legislators, we need to understand the effects of cannabis use as opposed to heroin use. We need to examine and evaluate more objectively and consistently the number of young people who are killed or whose lives are ruined by allergic reaction to ecstasy compared with addiction to alcohol, for example. Most important, because of the criminality inherent in the drugs business and young people's disrespect for the laws governing drug use, the Parliament must demonstrate its relevance to young people before it can hope to have more influence over the use and misuse of drugs than the siren voices of pals and pushers. Incidentally, we should remember that pals can be pushers as well as users.

We need a commission. I promise that I will back Richard Simpson's motion if he will sign my motion for the establishment of a commission on cannabis. We could start there, and consider the difference between the use of that drug and the use of other drugs and how we might start tackling the problem in a way that chimes with the users of all drugs in Scotland.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I remind members of the four-minute limit in this part of the debate. So that we can accommodate as many members who wish to speak as possible, it would be helpful if members adhered to that.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 11:55 am, 20th January 2000

I am pleased to say that I have already signed Richard Simpson's motion.

I start with some words by Garry Mackintosh from Nairn that I found very moving. Garry is serving a prison sentence for drugs-related crime in Armley prison in Leeds. He wrote:

"Some call it Brown

Some call it Gear

I call it Death

It's something I fear

'Go on Gaz, dig it'

That's what he said,

Before his last hit.

It didn't last long,

But I knew it was wrong,

He shouldn't be blue,

But I knew what to do

Turn him over

Clear his airway

Phoned 999

They said he'd be fine

I did what I could

They said I did good.

To the hospital

Not far away

Sitting beside him

He died on the way

He'd gone too far under

They couldn't get him back

It's what you expect

When you're hooked on smack!"

I welcome the debate, and I hope that when Garry Mackintosh is finally released from prison, such a debate is not all that he can expect. I hope that we have made a start today in addressing the issue of drugs and the needs of drug victims and their families.

Most families with drug-related problems want help, but either they are too frightened, and worried about what people will think of them, or they simply have no idea where to start. Even schools need to be much more open. Far too many schools worry about their reputation, when that reputation could be enhanced if parents knew that schools were tackling the drug issue head on.

I wish to make three brief points. First, I join the calls for more detoxification and rehabilitation centres; I acknowledge the minister's commitment. Prisoners and other addicts need to sort their heads out and to be made to face up to reality and stop blaming everyone else. I put a point forward for consideration. Could the allocation of money from the Prison Service to the drugs enforcement agency be used to fund a detox and rehabilitation centre for prisoners at one of the three prisons earmarked for closure?

With regard to the after-care service, it took me nine phone calls yesterday finally to get in touch with Narcotics Anonymous. There should be a national organisation, and a freephone helpline giving proper advice, so that addicts and their families can call at any time of the day and night.

Castle Craig Clinic in the Borders, with its proven record, is at the mercy of individual health board—

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

Briefly, as I have very little time.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I thank the member.

On a point of information, such a service does operate. Perhaps that relates to what I have said about the ineffectiveness of some of the existing agencies.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

I take Margo's point, but the existence of such a service seems to be little known. I am no expert—I am on a steep learning curve.

There is a need for a consistent approach to health board funding.

My next point concerns methadone. I hear what the minister and others in the chamber are saying. The British Methadone Alliance in London says that maintained patients show improvement in a number of outcomes. However, it concerns me to hear people talking about methadone being used to reduce crime. Are we simply using it for that purpose? If so, is that ethical? Surely methadone should be used, first and foremost, as a medical treatment—and the most appropriate form of medical treatment.

I raise the issue because I read with alarm a research paper from the department of psychology at the University of London and the Institute of Psychiatry, which states:

"Methadone significantly increased both positive craving and negative craving for heroin. Additional methadone made 'prime' cravings for heroin in methadone substitution patients . . . Despite its widespread use, relatively little is known of the acute or chronic effects of methadone".

The main finding was that an increase in daily methadone dosage increased craving for heroin. I suggest that we have a full investigation and report on the effectiveness of methadone as part of a harm reduction programme.

Finally, I am told that children who smoke are more likely to begin to use drugs. I am concerned about the hypothecated taxation on cigarettes, because that will lead to more cigarettes being smuggled—it is a bootlegger's dream. I hope that future increases in health funding will not depend on spending by smokers, who can already buy cigarettes through the internet at £2 per packet cheaper than in our shops.

Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour 12:01 pm, 20th January 2000

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate about the evil scourge in our society. In particular, I welcome the chance to put the case for a group of people who seem to have been forgotten thus far: those people who live alongside the peddlers of death, the drug dealers.

For most people, drug dealing is not the semi- glamorous, international jet setting portrayed in so many of the action-packed and violence-filled movies that show in our cinemas. Rather it is the experience of having dealers living in the flat next door or the house across the street, where a constant stream of visitors—sometimes sad, sometimes hard—buy their daily fix. It is the experience of addicts shooting up in the back garden and of children finding used needles in the close or the playing field. It is the experience of noise and disturbance at all times of day and night, day in and day out, and of violence and fear.

Let me share the experience of one of my constituents, a young mum who was streetwise and determined to do all that she could to ensure that her children's lives were better than her own. Unfortunately, a drug dealer lived across the road. As her children got older, they noticed the increase in noise, the banging on the door, the cursing and swearing and the state of those who had claimed the street. Unable to sleep and in fear of what might happen, she split up her family. She sent some children to live with relations and ended up sleeping with the youngest child in the living room.

This brave young mum eventually involved the police and was prepared to be a witness for them. In the end she moved to a house in another area, where she could bring her family back together. However, the memories of the days living in fear will sear her mind, and the minds of her children, for ever. Not everyone has the courage to involve the police. They fear the threats of violence and, in the worst cases, fire bombings and baseball bat attacks. That is not the stuff of an American television series, but is happening now in our cities, towns and villages.

What happens when someone stands up to those dealers? It takes so long to analyse the substance and for the procurator fiscal to decide to bring a case to court that the evil thugs who trade in death are back in their homes, carrying out their vicious trade with impunity. What message does that give to those constituents who want to stand up to the dealers and to regenerate the community? Too often, I have heard people say that reporting the dealers is a waste of time.

I urge the Executive not only to take every step in its power to destroy this cancer in our society, but actively to consider the impact on the innocent and the young who have to share the streets with these criminals. Is it not time to protect the young and the innocent and to give positive support to the various agencies in driving out the evil scum who scar our society?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 12:05 pm, 20th January 2000

I do not think that anyone has a monopoly on concern, good ideas or wisdom in relation to this serious issue. Right at the outset, I must say that I am not part of the consensus. I do not accept that the Executive's approach is right; I think that it is wrong, and that it is a repeat of a tried, tested and failed approach that has let us down sadly over the past 10 years.

The approach is not balanced. Most of the resources and time will be spent on enforcement and not on education and treatment. That is wrong. I would prefer a much more radical approach to deal with the problems that now confront us. Neither I nor my political party is pro drugs. Simply because we stand for a radical overhaul of drugs laws does not make us pro drugs. I would argue that it makes us very much in tune with everyday reality. Our society is based around drugs. We socialise around drugs—alcohol and tobacco, two of the most dangerous drugs in our society.

Consider for a moment that in the United Kingdom in 1998 we had one ecstasy-related death a month; 12 deaths in that year—12 too many. We had one heroin-related death every single day; 365 deaths—365 too many. But we had one alcohol-related death every 15 minutes. So let us put things in a wee bit of proportion when we are discussing the question of legalisation of the production and sale of cannabis under strict regulations.

Some people argue that legalisation would lead to a massive increase in the use of cannabis in our society. I refer members to the same 1998 European Union survey that Roseanna Cunningham mentioned earlier. It showed that, in a country such as Holland, where production and sale is already legal under strict regulation and licensing agreements, only 4 per cent of young people regularly use cannabis. The figure for young people in the United Kingdom who regularly use cannabis stands at 20 per cent. In other words, in a country where cannabis is already legally produced for sale under strict licensing agreements, the use of the drug is lower than in a country where it is illegal.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

In the light of Tommy Sheridan's statement on deaths arising from smoking cigarettes, does he accept the opinion of experts that cannabis is six times more carcinogenic than cigarettes?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I accept that completely. I am not promoting cannabis. I do not use cannabis and I would not encourage anyone else to use cannabis. I am arguing that it is a nonsense to retain cannabis as an illegal drug, because doing so criminalises more than 1 million people in Scotland whose crime is no greater than that of people who smoke cigarettes or drink a pint. That is the argument that I am trying to get across.

I ask the chamber to consider why it is that in Holland, with its more relaxed drugs laws, the average age of heroin addicts is 37 and rising, whereas the average age of heroin addicts in Scotland is 25 and falling. Our problems are increasing, in direct contrast to some other countries with relaxed drugs laws, where problems are decreasing. We need an approach that is based not on criminal enforcement but on medical and social understanding, and which considers prescribing heroin to adults in safe and controlled circumstances.

We hear that we must drive heroin out of our schemes. I agree. On many occasions, I have been involved, physically, in trying to drive heroin dealers out of schemes. But let us do something that will work in the long term: let us drive heroin out of our schemes and into controlled treatment centres. Let us ensure that we stabilise the life of heroin addicts, but that we also have the consequent stabilisation of the communities from which they come and the consequent reduction in crime.

Why did more than 67 per cent of the Swiss population in a national referendum in October 1997 vote to endorse the very heroin prescription that I have mentioned today? Because it was working; it was lowering the numbers of addicts and people hooked on drugs.

In the past 10 years, we have adopted an approach—an approach that has been asked for again today. After 10 years, we have the worst number of drug deaths, the worst level of addiction and the worst problem in our communities: drug-related crime. The approach is not working, and it is time for radical change.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 12:10 pm, 20th January 2000

One of the problems with Tommy Sheridan's approach is that the greatest clamour for enforcement comes from deprived communities and from the people who live with the situation daily. This Parliament has a duty to listen to those people above all others when they tell us not to legalise cannabis and to retain enforcement policies. They support the Executive's balanced proposals, as I do. I have listened to many of the communities that have been struggling with this issue and I have the greatest respect for their concerns.

One particular issue that always gets missed in such debates is the relationship between drugs misuse, poverty and social exclusion. Members will know that I recently witnessed in my constituency the terrible human cost of failing to tackle the profound social malaise that is associated with drugs. The final consequences of that particular situation happened yesterday. We will not adequately tackle this problem if we do not fully understand both the causes of addiction and misuse and the effects and the scale of those effects on individuals, families and communities. The evidence is overwhelming that there is a clear link between chronic drugs misuse and poverty, and that any strategy must address that.

As members will know, the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee is about to launch an inquiry into this issue. However, that should not prohibit the rest of the Parliament taking ownership of the issue. I probably agree with Keith Raffan that we should ask the Parliament to examine it. That said, we need to bed the issue into the committee's day-to-day work.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

With every due respect, Margo, I am very short of time and I do not think that these issues have been raised.

Our inquiry will listen to individuals who misuse drugs, families that have struggled to overcome the problem and communities that have suffered disproportionately and are desperately searching for the means to resist being overwhelmed by a culture of collusion and defeat.

In our preliminary investigations, we have been given information by the Health Education Board for Scotland, which said that the most important factor differentiating schoolchildren who had used drugs from those who had not was expectation about the future. Schoolchildren who thought that they would go on to higher education were much less likely to have used drugs.

A recent report called "Drugs Misuse and the Environment" from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs states that rather than deprivation being strongly related only to the simple fact of use ever, it may relate more subtly to age of first use, progression to dependence, intravenous and risky use, health and social complications abuse and criminal involvement. The report urges that we keep deprivation on the agenda at all times and that policy makers and practitioners work in partnership with local communities.

We cannot underestimate the real scale of desperation within our most deprived communities, which feel overwhelmed and are properly demanding urgent intervention. There is a deep frustration at dealers who operate so blatantly and with impunity, and who both explore and ravage the most vulnerable sections of our community.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I have to get on, Margo.

We should be aware of the resilience, courage and determination that exists throughout Scotland, and which presents us with a real opportunity. We should not be defeatist. We can and must develop strategies and services that address the root causes of drug misuse and assist those individuals, families and communities in finding the routes out of their situation that they are desperately seeking. Such an approach has not been tried in the past and I think that we are about to find new models for achieving our aims.

In recent months, I have met a number of people and have become aware of the dreadful circumstances that many young people face—abuse, violence and neglect—which have led them into drug use. We must not be defeatist. We have a real opportunity. Throughout Scotland—in the media, in agencies, among staff and, most of all, among communities and users themselves—there is a palpable sense that we can begin to tackle drug misuse. As someone else said, we must be tough not only on the causes, but on the realities of drug misuse.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party 12:15 pm, 20th January 2000

I am pleased to follow a number of members who have highlighted the problems of drug misuse among young people. I was pleased to read in the Executive's document "Action in Partnership":

"There are, of course, inextricable links between drug misuse, smoking and alcohol misuse. Tobacco and alcohol use often provide a gateway into illicit drug use."

I am glad that this Parliament and the Executive realise the problems that our young people face. I was going to give some statistics, but we have heard them. My question, therefore, is: what are we doing about our young people's problems with drug misuse?

The most recent report from the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration—the first since drug and alcohol misuse became causes for referral—showed that in the year covered by the report there were 1,114 referrals for drug, alcohol or solvent misuse by young people. The chief reporter went on to say that the low availability of drug treatment services dedicated to the under-16 age group was probably the cause of the under-reporting to the children's panels at the time.

That statement—that we do not have dedicated services for under 16-year-olds—is repeated again and again by all the voluntary and professional organisations working in the field. If we want to prevent continued drug misuse, we must consider how we are going to help the youngest and most vulnerable users.

The key task for any drug misuse strategy for young folk is to develop responsive services. The problems faced by young drug misusers are not the same as those faced by adults. It is also in this area that it is most important to examine user involvement in the services that we provide.

Young folk's reasons for and choice of addiction tend to swing much more according to fashion than those of long-term and older addicts. In the case of solvent abuse, there is an average of 10 deaths a year in Scotland, but that figure rises dramatically in some years and falls away in others. With young people we must have services that can respond to needs as and when they arise.

Education is another important area where there are swings and roundabouts, fashions and fads. We must evaluate our services and invest for the future in those that work for young people. There is no point in saying one year, "Just say no," and the next concentrating on harm reduction.

I recommend that we examine two areas: alternatives for young people and peer-led services. We must consider alternatives to drug abuse. We must ask why our young people are becoming involved in drugs. Why are we hearing such terrible statistics?

One of the biggest reasons is the sense of alienation that young people across all levels and classes in society feel. Young folk do not see a future, so when they are offered an alternative to boredom and no hope at 14, 15 or 16, they will take it. The worry is where that leads them. We must consider offering alternatives through community-based initiatives.

Another area that concerns me greatly and about which we have heard little is the issue of children who have drug-abusing parents. We must consider how we can support those children, who, when they are a bit older, often take on care of the drug-abusing parent. We learned in the news last night the effects that a chaotic drug-abusing parental household can have on a child, and we have to invest in research to tackle such cases.

We have to applaud aim (i) in "Action in Partnership", which is to prioritise young people. On aim (iv), which relates to the availability of illegal drugs, why is the Scottish Executive not following the UK line, which is that the key objective will be to

"Reduce access to drugs amongst 5-16 year olds"?

Perhaps a cross-cutting committee would ensure that young people are considered at every turn and under every objective.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 12:20 pm, 20th January 2000

I would like members to picture the scene: a secondary school in Glasgow. A man is lurking at the gates, approaching young people as they enter, encouraging them to buy drugs. Cut to a family home. Mum and dad are pacing the floor, fretting about the possibility of their child taking drugs, worried about when that young person will come home. Cut then to a young person being told about the dangers of drugs, stunned into a decision not to take the risk. Finally, cut to the group of people sitting on beanbags, rolling joints, listening to "Tubular Bells", discussing the relative safety of cannabis. All those scenes form parts of our idea of what is happening in relation to drugs. To some extent, they are all rooted in the truth. Across communities and classes, parents fret and young people experiment.

I want to speak about another world: where young people from the poorest parts of our country are 30 times more likely to go into hospital with a drug-related emergency; where there has been a 50 per cent increase in drug deaths in Strathclyde in the previous year; where drugs are not pushed by evil outsiders, but are found in the home; where parents are not striving for the solution because they are the problem; where drugs are woven into the fabric of children's lives; where cannabis is not taken as a drug of choice, but is taken as part of a random, reckless mixture with drink and other drugs; and where, as revealed in a recent report by the University of Glasgow's centre for drug misuse research, far from being motivated to deal with their problem by a fear of death, addicts are often suicidal and depressed and overdose because of their suicidal feelings.

There is little that is more distressing than telling a 13-year-old that he may not reach his 14th birthday if he continues to dabble in drugs as he is doing, knowing that that will not stop him. In some communities, parents are fighting for the resources to protect their children before the drugs kill them.

This is an emotional issue. All Scotland suffers, but the burden of the impact of drugs is hugely concentrated in certain areas. We must recognise that the problems go too far to be sorted out by a drugs policy alone.

I welcome the fact that our drugs policy is placed firmly within our social inclusion policy, and I would resist the temptation to take it away from the responsibility of the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee, as the drugs problem is connected with social exclusion in most of the communities concerned. Those communities' problems will be solved, and change will be delivered by working with communities and addressing the problems of unemployment, poor educational attainment and poor health in the round to form a national commitment, locally shaped and locally delivered.

Of course there is a place for discussing harm reduction, for drugs education and for methadone programmes. I do not close the door to anything mentioned in this debate that might offer some solution in the future, but, where the drugs problem is most intense, we need to view it as a symptom of a difficulty, and not mix up the debate on lifestyle choice and drug taking with the intense problems of those who are most at risk.

I would be failing in my duty if I did not address the particular problems of my constituency: the pain felt by families who grieve for their children lost to drugs; the intense impact on particular communities; the disturbance experienced by families who live so near to where the drugs are being dealt that addicts shoot up in their close; drug-related crime; anti-social behaviour; and problems at school.

There is also an impact from the increase in the number of people with co-morbidity problems of drug and drink, as identified by mental health agencies in Glasgow. Glasgow has specific problems. It generates huge wealth for Scotland, but is struggling with a massive drugs problem, which represents a divide within Glasgow.

I again call on the Executive to look positively on demands from some of us for a special strategy for Glasgow. That will provide resources to allow the professionals—and our strong communities in Glasgow working together—to take on the complexities of drugs problems and to give our children a better future than the too-sad future that some of them face now.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party 12:25 pm, 20th January 2000

The Deputy Minister for Justice will recognise that all parties should be united in trying to tackle the drugs problem. We should work in as constructive a manner as possible to find solutions, although where we have genuine differences we should express them during debate. The Executive should keep an open mind about initiatives proposed by other parties that may be worth considering and about questions, such as those raised by Roseanna Cunningham and Tommy Sheridan, on how different strategies may work.

The Deputy Minister for Justice commented in his opening remarks on enforcement. I recognise that the drugs enforcement agency is an important part of the Executive's holistic approach to the problem. The agency was announced last year and at that time there was only limited information about it, about the number of officers involved and how it would relate to Customs and Excise or local constabularies. Although the Deputy Minister for Justice has put flesh on those bones over recent months, there was concern in other agencies on how they would work together and what the demarcation lines would be.

The Deputy Minister for Justice said in November that the agency would have 200 officers and that it would have a budget of £5 million annually for the next two years. I am sure that he recognises that those officers will have to be experienced in this field and that recruiting officers from local police forces will have a local impact. Many constabularies are concerned that it will have consequences for their policing numbers.

I look forward to the director of the drugs enforcement agency clarifying the lines of demarcation and giving the drugs enforcement agency's targets. Angus MacKay said that among the agency's purposes was to stem supplies coming into Scotland and to smash organised drug crime at street level. We all support that and I hope that the agency is successful in doing that. However, it is important for the other agencies, such as Customs and Excise and local police drug teams, to be involved and to know what their roles and responsibilities are. When we consider that Customs and Excise has had major staffing cuts, we should question whether we are being as holistic as we should be in tackling enforcement.

I hope the drugs enforcement agency is a success, but it is difficult to know whether it will be until we see the full details. If we are to create good inter-agency co-operation, it is important to have clear lines of accountability and responsibility and to set targets, which I look forward to seeing soon.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Before moving to the next item of business, I close this part of the debate and remind members that the second part will commence this afternoon at 3.30, immediately after First Minister's question time.