LEADING drugs experts have warned of the dangers of taking cocaine on the terraces as football trouble returns to Scotland.

There has been a marked rise in violence and disruption at grounds over recent seasons with police sources warning of a revival of old-school 1980s hooliganism.

However, there are also growing concerns among supporters and some club officials that some fans may be taking more cocaine - a stimulant that takes away inhibitions.

Police have told The Herald they have no specific concerns about cocaine at football - stressing the drug is prevalent throughout society.

Surveys suggest Scotland has one of the world;s highest rates of cocaine consumption.

The Sunday Mail newspaper this weekend published an investigation showing evidence of cocaine use in toilets at senior grounds across the country, sugging football supporters were part of the wider picture. And that worries experts.

Dave Liddell, chief executive of Scottish Drugs Forum, responded with concern, especially if fans were mixing cocaine and alcohol.

He said: “Drinking alcohol before the game and then using a stimulant like cocaine during the match is concerning.

“Alcohol makes people who may otherwise only feel ¬aggressive act more aggressively and some may become violent.

“On top of this, cocaine will give people a euphoric and energising rush. For some people in a football crowd, this may lead to trouble.”

There is no specific evidence that any of the high-profile cases of hooliganism in recent weeks are linked with cocaine.

A fan attacked a Rangers player at Edinburgh club Hibernian earlier this month, on the same day another supporter invaded a pitch and struck a player during a derby between Birmingham City and Aston Villa.

Much off the focus in Scotland has been on sectarianism - with Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke bemoaning a lack of action,

Mr Clarke, speaking after being abused at Ibrox last month, said: “All these problems are in society and manifest themselves through football because it’s such a popular game. But if we don’t address it through the clubs, the problem will always be there.”

Police sources have suggested football hooliganism is still far from as bad as in its 1980s heyday - and they suggest that while the sectarian edge is very Scottish, it is part of a wider trend.

David Hamilton, vice chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, has suggested the issue is Europe-wide.

He said: “It is getting silly again. We have come a long way since the days before the alcohol ban of the 1980. But only two years ago there was a pitch invasion at the cup final.

“We are getting a resurgence of old problems. We need the clubs to take responsibility and we need to revisit issues like strict liability and safety certificates.”

The Scottish Government has hinted that it would support strict liability, when clubs could face penalties, such as being forced to play im empty stadiums, if their fans misbehave.

Clubs, in theory, do not allow drugs at grounds. Drinking is banned at Scottish football matches. This, stress law enforcement sources, is relatively easy to enforce thanks to bag checks that might find a bottle but are unlikely to spot small bags of powder.

The former head of the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency said cocaine too was an issue for clubs.

Graeme Pearson told the Sunday Mail: “Clubs have the responsibility to manage their toilets properly. Police need to assess their intelligence to find out the extent to which drug misuse is ongoing.

“Cocaine use reduces users’ inhibitions and this could be a factor in pitch invasions. It’s unreasonable that decent fans have to suffer this kind of behaviour.”

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, head of Police Scotland’s Football Coordination Unit for Scotland, said: “We do not have analytical evidence that ¬demonstrates a link between football disorder and misuse of drugs but Police Scotland works closely with supporters’ groups and clubs to tackle any issues.”

Cocaine prices have fallen in recent years - though far from all the product sold in Scotland is good quality.