THE Government last night announced a public consultation on plans to

ban the prescription drug Temazepam, two months after the head of the

Scottish Police Federation called for action to stem the west of

Scotland's drugs wars.

The announcement came as the BBC current affairs programme Panorama

screened a hard-hitting documentary on the violence surrounding

Temazepam abuse in Paisley.

In April, Scottish Office Minister Lord Fraser told the Police

Federation conference in Peebles that abuse of Temazepam was the key

drugs issue in Scotland.

He said a rescheduling of the drug would make it harder for misusers

to obtain, adding: ''We are carefully examining the rescheduling of the

drug and hope to reach a decision soon.''

His promise followed a call for the ''killer'' drug to be outlawed by

federation chairman Mr Jim Fraser.

Mr Leslie Sharp, Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, has estimated

that there are about 10,000 drug abusers in Glasgow, of whom two-thirds

are thought to be addicted to Temazepam.

Last night's Government announcement came amid concern that the drug

makes abusers aggressive and led to 50 deaths last year in Glasgow

alone, and has been responsible for escalating violence and a series of

murders in Paisley.

Mr John Bowis, parliamentary secretary at the Department of Health,

launched a public consultation exercise on the proposed ban on

prescription of the soft gel-filled capsules by general practitioners.

He said: ''The scale of the misuse of Temazepam requires action. The

misuse . . . by injecting drug users has given rise to extremely serious

health problems for them.

''If a decision to ban were taken, it would be part of a package of

measures designed to reduce misuse which would include increasing safe

custody controls on all formulations of Temazepam in manufacturers'

premises and warehouses.

''The tablet and elixir formulations of Temazepam would remain

available on NHS prescription in order to meet all clinical need. There

would be no question of this proposal disadvantaging patients in any

way, and patients would continue to receive the medicines they need.''

The announcement came as BBC1's Panorama programme reported that the

drug has led to murders, machete attacks, shootings and a firebombing in


Street demand for Temazepam is so strong that criminal gangs fight

pitched battles for control of the lucrative black market in the drug.

Mr Ken Mitchell, a surgeon at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley

told the programme he treated children as young as 13 who had been

involved in taking Temazapam, for whom taking the drug had become

socially acceptable.

''There's obviously a vendetta going on, there's some sort of warfare

going on,'' he added.

He said he had seen ''stab wounds through the neck, going in one side,

out the other side, right through the vocal cord area''.