Partnership approach is “key” to tackling NPS problem

.Graeme Dey, MSP for Angus South.
.Graeme Dey, MSP for Angus South.

Local MSPs Graeme Dey and Nigel Don have been closely following the campaigns across Angus to rid the county’s streets of ‘Head Shops’ selling NPS.

And they have both endorsed the cross-party approach to tackling the problem being taken within the Scottish Parliament, as well as the temporary ban by the UK Government placed on several active ingredients used in the manufacture of NPS.

Angus North and Mearns MSP, Nigel Don

Angus North and Mearns MSP, Nigel Don

Mr Dey said: “The UK Government is to be commended for placing a ban on five different compounds which feature in about 60 per cent of the NPS trafficked in Scotland. This will allow the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to look at properly and there are substantial fines for people who are peddling these compounds, as well as up to 
14 years in prison.

“There has been some really good stuff done in Angus involving the council’s trading standards unit and Police Scotland and everyone is pulling together to get an appropriate resolution to this.”

Mr Dey added that while there are differing ideas about how to deal with the problem, there is a commitment across the Parliament chamber to work together to resolve it.

He continued: “The Government has commissioned research to refine the definition of NPS and if they’re being challenged legally there needs to be clarity on whether Scots Common Law can be used to bring about prosecutions.

“Each party has been asked to nominate an MSP to work on the cross party group and it’s about maintaining the consensus that exists. There’s also an issue of looking at international best practice.

“We really need to be smart about how we do this, as the people who trade in these are smart and will try to find ways around it.”

Mr Don praised the campaign that was run locally in Forfar, which resulted in a 3,000 signature petition which he presented recently to Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

Mr Wheelhouse visited Angus himself earlier in the year to see for himself the pioneering approach being taken by local police.

He said: “In Forfar the important thing is that when someone worked out the shop was going to open, it was remarkable how fast the local community put together a campaign to say that it shouldn’t happen.

“I was very pleased to receive a petition with more than 3,000 signatures and delighted to hand it on to the Scottish Government.

“Given that some substances have now been banned and carry jail sentences of up to 14 years, it might make people think ‘do we want to do this?’

“I think the local campaign may well have been instrumental in stopping the shop opening there and there’s a large fraction of people in Forfar saying they didn’t want it that might have got through to those concerned.

“The community responded very swiftly and I think that sends out a public message to the government that people don’t want these, they understand it has to stop and they’re asking the government to do that.”