Football Grounds (Drug Use)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to support police in tackling drug use at football grounds. (S5O-03500)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has invested £800 million since 2008 to tackle the problem of alcohol and drug use. As Margaret Mitchell will be aware, our programme for government t hat was announced last week commits another £20 million over the next two years to support local services, provide targeted support and raise awareness of the dangers of drug use.

Police Scotland will continue to work with football clubs to investigate any drug misuse at matches, and it is committed to ensuring that people who are involved in drug dealing and distribution are very effectively targeted for arrest and prosecution.

We want Scotland’s football grounds to be welcoming places for everybody, including families and children. The Scottish Government is working with the football authorities, clubs and other partners to address some of the negative issues that we have seen in recent months, including reported drug misuse. We fully support clubs in their efforts to deal with any behaviour that is illegal and that contravenes the grounds’ regulations. The use of sniffer dogs by Hibs is just one example of the positive action that clubs can take to deter illegal activity and unacceptable conduct.

Although the allocation and prioritisation of resources is obviously a matter for the chief constable, the Scottish Government’s funding for policing in 2019-20 has increased by £42.3 million.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I do not want to interfere too much with the cabinet secretary’s position, but if we could have slightly shorter answers, we will make greater progress with the questions. I am very hard on members in that regard.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

The cabinet secretary will be aware from recent reports that there is a growing problem of cocaine use, which has been highlighted at grounds such as Hamilton, Easter Road, Pittodrie, Celtic Park and Ibrox. Given that we know that drug use is an aggravating factor and is likely to increase hooliganism and antisocial behaviour at football games, will the cabinet secretary release more details about the talks that he has had with clubs and the effort that is being made to identify drug use and deter fans from using drugs, because—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

No, please, that is sufficient.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

The evidence of cocaine use is clearly there.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Your question has been asked, thank you.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

Will the cabinet secretary also provide details of extra, intense sniffer dog use?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Ms Mitchell, I want to get other members in.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will be as brief as possible, and I am happy to have a conversation with Margaret Mitchell. I have met a number of the clubs whose grounds she talked about—Aberdeen, Celtic and Hibs.

The issue has been raised with me only by Celtic and Hibs, and I know about some of the proactive measures that the two clubs are taking. I continue to have conversations with the clubs and I am more than happy to speak or write to Margaret Mitchell, if she feels that that is appropriate, about how those conversations are going.

I point to a quotation from John McKenzie, the head of what was known as the focus unit in Police Scotland. He said:

“We do not have any analytical evidence that demonstrates the link between football disorder and the misuse of drugs, but Police Scotland works closely with supporters’ groups and clubs to tackle any issues”.

As I said, I am more than happy to furnish Margaret Mitchell with further details.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Iain Gray. I beg your pardon—I had indicated that Kenneth Gibson could ask a supplementary question. It has to be brief, Mr Gibson.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Can the cabinet secretary confirm that alcohol remains the drug of greatest concern at football matches? What is the cabinet secretary’s view on whether alcohol should be available under certain restrictions at Euro 2020 matches?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I am not convinced by the argument that alcohol should be available at football grounds, as things stand. I have had detailed discussions with a number of stakeholders on the unacceptable conduct that we have seen at football matches, and I am not convinced that introducing alcohol into the mix—beyond what is currently available in grounds—is a good idea, even under restricted circumstances.