A GROUP of mainly ex-police officers want pharmacies licensed as “safe suppliers” and drugs to be legalised in a bid to address Scotland’s reputation as the narcotics death capital of Europe.

The newly launched Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) Scotland is aiming to have hard drugs legalised and regulated on the same footing as alcohol and gambling “to take them away from the criminals”.

The move comes after the First Minister admitted the nation’s drug death toll was a “national disgrace”.

One of the group, Simon McLean, a retired Crime Squad detective and undercover vice officer, confirmed the vision is to have licensed drug sellers, like pharmacies, as part of a regulatory process “so we control the market”.

The group believes the moves would ensure a controlled supply and would take production out of the hands of criminals, where there are risks of contamination.

The group says a “more relaxed” British system could involve users receiving a prescription, as some currently do with methadone.

Depending on the suitability of the client, this may be “take home”, or some may use at a designated part of a pharmacy. LEAP says the advantage of using a pharmacy is that Naxolone, which counters the effects of overdoses from opioids such as heroin, can be more easily administered.

However, the group says an overdose is “significantly less likely” with safe supply because it is a measured dose.

It comes after the Scottish Government announced an additional £50 million will be allocated every year for the next five years to improve and increase services for people affected by drug addiction.

The move has come as Scotland has become the drug death capital of Europe, with more than 1,200 people north of the Border dying in drug-related cases last year, a six per cent increase on 2018’s toll, and more than three-and-ahalf times that of the UK as a whole.

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Mr McLean said: “We have done it with alcohol and gambling. It can be regulated, so you know the quantity and the source of it.

“People selling it would be licensed to sell it. It would be safe, rather than having it mixed in a bath tub in the house.”

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He added: “It would have to be evidence-led, but using pharmacies is an option for providing a safe supply.

It would have to be backed up with regulation and the back-up you need for problematic users, like with alcohol.”

The Misuse of Drugs Act came into being 50 years ago and the former police officers tasked with enforcing the prohibition of drugs in the past have been vocal within LEAP Scotland in calling for change.

The original US-based Law Enforcement Action Partnership have been campaigning globally against the war on drugs since being formed in March 2002.

It is a non-profit group of current and former police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals who use their expertise to advance drug policy and criminal justice solutions that enhance public safety.

The Scottish group has a hardcore launch committee of six that also includes James Duffy, a retired Police Inspector and former chairman of Strathclyde Police Federation; Ian Andrew, a retired Inspector of Strathclyde police with 33 years’ service; and retired chief inspector Graham Goulden.

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Also involved is drugs crusader Peter Krykant  who believes he now has the legal green light to run his mobile Overdose Prevention Centre and has recently held talks with the First Minister about the initiatives to end the nation's drugs death crisis.

Drugs policy minister Angela Constance said: “Addressing drug-related harms is a public health priority for this government and we are prepared to consider innovative, evidence-based approaches within the powers we have. The laws around the Misuse of Drugs Act are reserved to the UK Parliament and so not something which the Scottish Parliament is able to change.

“We will consult on drugs law reform so that the Scottish Parliament is ready to act when it has the power to do so.

“The First Minister in the Scottish Parliament reaffirmed our commitment to use our existing powers to deliver a step change in reducing harm and promoting recovery and announced that an additional £50 million will be allocated every year for the next five years to improve and increase services for people affected by drug addiction.”