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18 June 2006

Stevenson Calls for 'Drugs Summit'

For Immediate Release - 18th June 2006



Following reports that cocaine use has increased dramatically among the young in Scotland and that 500 heroin users under 16 are in re-hab, SNP Shadow Drugs Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP has called for a 'Drugs Summit' to kick-start a genuine and informed debate about drug abuse in Scotland.

Speaking in Banffshire today [Sunday], Mr Stevenson said:

"We have heard, Tom Wood, a former Deputy Chief Constable declare that the war on drugs is lost. Graeme Pearson head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency strongly disagrees.

"When such authoritative figures disagree so fundamentally, it is clear that drugs policy and practice is in dis-array."

Talking of a way forward, Stevenson is calling for a co-operation not confrontation in the debate. He said:

"Drugs policy is a sensitive area of political debate. We simply cannot use the media as a substitute for sitting down to establish the facts, test alternative approaches, agree the resources we can afford, and move forward to truly engage in all aspects of the problem - health, criminal justice, social policy.

"Let me in a spirit of consensus point to a success in England. The number 10 policy unit under the leadership of the much-maligned former BBC Director General John Birt, got one thing right that we should copy. It drew together into one useful document all the known facts about the drug 'industry' and drew out the limitations of knowledge in an annually updated paper.

"We have nothing equivalent in Scotland and too many questions to the Executive are returned as 'this information is not held centrally'. It is no wonder that the debate is focussed on the failures of policy. And the disagreements of senior individuals. It is time we had a framework for success.

"First Minister Jack McConnell has said on a number of occasions that it is time to build a consensus to solve Scotland's drugs problems. If he fails to show leadership in this, he can be sure that an SNP-led government will."


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