Scots top global cocaine use poll

Image caption,
1kg of foreign cocaine would be bulked to provide eight times as much in Scotland

Scotland has among the highest levels of cocaine use in the world, according to a United Nations report.

The study, which is published every three years, found 3.7% of Scots aged 16 to 64 use the drug each year.

The news comes as the agency which tracks organised crime said it had found a greater concentration of cocaine trade in Scotland.

The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) seized 105kg of class A substances worth £21m last year.

The 3.7% level of cocaine use in Scotland compares with 3% of people living in England and 2.6% of those in the USA.

Heroin use in Scotland was also found to be among the highest in Europe, with 1.5% of the population using the drug.

Despite the figures, the UN report said that use of cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy in Scotland had fallen since the last survey.

In the past year, the SCDEA said it made a record number of arrests, including 67 leading members of criminal gangs.

'Foot soldiers'

The agency said it had also identified £22m of criminal assets for seizure.

However, in its annual report, the SCDEA acknowledged it had failed to meet its own drug seizure targets.

Its annual drug total included 51kg of high purity cocaine seized from abroad, which would have been bulked to more than 400kg in Scotland, worth £18m.

They also seized 1.6 tonnes of class B drugs with a street value of almost £5m.

Director-general Gordon Meldrum said that instead of going after the "foot soldiers" of organised crime, the agency was now targeting "captains and lieutenants".

He said that in future the focus would be to go after the "generals".

Mr Meldrum said: "Every kilogram of cocaine bound for Scotland but seized abroad in a production country, such as Colombia, is roughly equivalent to around 8kg in Scotland.

"It is often even more when you take into account how much the drug is adulterated by callous criminals to maximise their profits.

"By sharing intelligence with law enforcement agencies around the world we can stop serious organised crime groups - who are targeting Scotland - firmly in their tracks."

He added that rather than wait for drugs to flood Scotland's streets, the agency was increasingly going directly to the point of production and liaising with forces abroad.

He added: "The top 20 most harmful groups in Scotland are all now under active investigation by a coalition of law enforcement agencies."

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the report provided evidence that "significant progress was being made in the fight against organised crime".

He added: "The arrest of more serious organised criminals than ever before sends out a clear message to the gangsters - the police know who you are, they know what you're up to, and they are determined to bring you to justice."

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