THE death toll from drugs misuse has soared up by up to eight times in a decade in parts of Scotland with rural areas among the grim hotspots, shocking new analysis has revealed.

The Falkirk local authority area, has seen the biggest ten year rise in deaths in Scotland soaring by an astonishing 720%. In 2009, there were just five fatalities but in 2019 that had grown to 41.

And drugs crusader Peter Krykant from Falkirk, who operates a safe drugs consumption space in Glasgow believes the figures shows the time has come for Scotland's most senior law officer, the Lord Advocate to act to decriminalise drug use saying that a failure to act "is allowing people to die needlessly".

READ MORE: Study finds ‘compelling’ case for safe drug taking facilities

He believes the issues in the Falkirk local authority area were partly down to "ineffective" local systems to deal with addicts.

He has met Nicola Sturgeon to talk of the problem and believes Scotland has the power to decriminalise use of hard drugs through the Lord Advocate deciding not to prosecute anyone under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

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A cross-party Westminster committee - chaired by SNP MP Pete Wishart but including four Conservative MPs, three Labour members, two Lib Dems and two other SNP MPs - found that decriminalisation was a "public health" approach that could cut the stigma around problem drug use and encourage people to seek treatment.

Schemes elsewhere channel drug addicts committing low level crimes into treatment instead of jail.

The Herald on Sunday's analysis reveals that after Falkirk, neighbouring Clackmannanshire and Perth and Kinross has seen the next biggest rise in drug death fatalites, rising five fold over the ten years.

In 2009 in Clackmannanshire there were just three drug-related deaths but this rose to 15 in 2019. In Perth and Kinross the deaths rose from five to 25.

The move has come as Scotland has become the drug death capital of Europe, with more than 1,200 Scots dying in drug-related cases in 2019, an 131% increase on the 2009 toll, and over three-and-a-half times that of the the UK as a whole.

The Glasgow City Council area had the most deaths with 270, just over double that of ten year previously.

The City of Edinburgh had the second highest number of fatalities, with 96 - a 113% rise over the decade, while North Lanarkshire saw 95 deaths up 171% from 35 in 2009.

Of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland, some 20 have seen the number of deaths at least double over the decade.

Only Na h-Eileanan Siar and Highland have seen an drop deaths over the ten years.

Last week, 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.

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And Mr Krykant who wants a change in the law to allow the legal consumpton of drugs such as heroin and cocaine says the Lord Advocate has to take action to decriminalise.

"His continuous failure to address this makes him complicit right now, and is allowing people to die needlessly," he said.

"I think you can put things in place to decriminalise," he said. "The Lord Advocate can decide on how things are policed. So this all comes down to him. Nicola Sturgeon said she was going to talk to the Lord Advocate, and I hope she is having conversations with him, because so far he is not taking any responsibility for the way things are in Scotland.

"It is his decision what stand he takes on prosecution and he has to take a stance on it at some point."

He said it was important that money made its way to third sector groups for staff who can provide fresh ideas into how to deal with drug addiction.

He believes after talks with the First Minister that there will soon by an official drug consumption unit taking the place of his.

The former addict was charged with obstruction after police attended a mobile 'fix room' from a van in Glasgow, but the charge was later dropped. The van provides a "safe space" where users can take their own drugs under medical supervision.

Mr Krykant, who started taking drugs himself at the age of 11, has said the current laws force people to inject in squalid conditions in alleyways, closes and waste ground.

He believes that there is a case for official drug consumption rooms in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee where there is public injecting.

He has joined a new group of mainly ex-police officers who are behind a bid toinvolve pharmacies as licensed 'safe suppliers' while legalising drugs to curb Scotland's reputation as the narcotics death capital of Europe.

The newly launched Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) Scotland wants to have hard drugs legalised and regulated on the same footing as alcohol and gambling "to take them away from the criminals" as the First Minister admitted 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".

Mr Krykant says that that is a long-term aim.

They believe the moves would ensure a controlled supply and would take production out of the hands of criminals where there are risks of contamination.

A "more relaxed" British system could involve people receiving a prescription like some now do with methadone.

Depending on the suitability of the client that may be ‘take home’, or some may use at a designated part of a pharmacy. They say 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.

Mr McLean said: "Our position is when we have a success, we make a drugs bust, we actually make the situation worse, we strengthen the criminals hand because they control the market place.

“I spent my career infiltrating and arresting major drug rings thinking I was making a positive impact on our society. I now know for a fact that through our many ‘successes’ I was actually making the situation more dangerous, creating a marketplace where there is no rule of law, one in which anything goes in the pursuit of profit and power: Organized crime has flourished.”

The Misuse of Drugs Act came came into being 50 years ago this year 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 (LEAP) have been campaigning globally against the war on drugs since 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.

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Retired officers Jim Duffy, left, and Simon Mclean prepare to launch LEAP Scotland next month. Pic Gordon Terris

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.

Mr Duffy who clocked up 32 years of police service said: "We have to legalise, legislate and control.

"For some reason our society in UK and Scotland driven by forces cross the water have decided drugs are bad, you should just say no and everything will get better and go away. That doesn't work.

"Drugs have never been more plentiful and drugs have never been easier to get. It comes as a shock that what I did for 32 years made not a blind bit of difference.

"What happened during that time was the criminals who ran the drugs market got richer, made more profits and destroyed more lives.

"It comes as a shock that what I did for 32 years made not a blind bit of difference.

What happened during that time was the criminals who ran the drugs market got richer, made more profits and destroyed more lives.

We know that what we are doing doesn't work. And if it doesn't work we need to change it."

Mr Andrew added:"It is easy to say with 20/20 hindsight that a policy of prohibition and a war on drugs was doomed to fail.

"The legislation was a product of its time. That time is not now. And the legislation has ceased to be fit for purpose. Now we must move in a different direction.

"By regulating, you undermine the power of those supplying illicit drugs and improve the health of people using the drugs and the people who interact with them."

Mr Goulden with 30 years service said: "I want to reach out to all police officers, retired and serving, we all have the ability to influence thinking within and outside the organisation."

The Scottish Government announced extra funding after talks took place with people with lived experience, a range of organisations and the Drug Deaths Taskforce. They included Mr Krykant.

READ MORE: Ministers say Peter Krykant's Glasgow 'mobile drug fix room' is illegal

In a statement to Parliament, the First Minister said a national mission was needed to turn things around.

She said she wants to substantially increase the number of residential rehabilitation beds across the country, reduce stigma and increase the number of people in treatment for their addiction.

She said funding would be allocated directly to Alcohol and Drug Partnerships, third sector and grassroots organisations to improve work in communities.

She also wanted to further widen the distribution of naloxone kits to reverse the effects of a potentially fatal opoid overdose.

There was also to be a reassessment on how overdose prevention facilities might be established despite legal barriers.

Neil Woods, chairman of LEAP UK which is supporting the Scottish launch said to save even more lives there is a need for overdose prevention sites where people can use their drugs in supervised safer settings.

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The former UK police officer and undercover drugs operative added: "Let’s be clear, this is a policy that takes money straight out of the pockets of organised crime.

"Why would anyone continue being exploited by gangsters selling them adulterated dangerous substances if they can be cared for by professionals? Less people will die. "Less people will sell drugs to pay for their own habit, thus causing the market to shrink. Policing has never been able to shrink the market in the current system."

The Crown Office has told Mr Krykant he will not face court action after he refused to accept a caution relating to the running of his drugs van in Glasgow.

Mr Krykant said there were problems in the Falkirk local authority area over who gets drug dependence  ssessments.

"You have different processes for different areas. People who live in the rural outskirts of Falkirk taking heroin or street benzos they need to come into Falkirk for an assessment and to get to one assessment can be a challenge.  When you have two or three it is just not achievable for a lot of people," he said.

Once a full assessment has been carried out, a care or treatment plan can be established.

Mr Krykant added:"If you look at Perth and Kinross, there are under 30% [of addicts] who are in any form of treatment. That is typical in these rural areas and I have got to say that it is also typical of an old school dynamic within organisations.   

"The processes are a sham.  New organisations come in and don't give new ideas.

"The biggest hope is that the extra £50m will filter to third sector groups to allow them to take on new staff, new people into the services that will come into fresh ideas on getting people into treatment and keeping people in treatment.

"A lot of people that are not in treatment have tried to get support, but because of the  bottleneck system for appointments they don't come back."

A Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service spokesman said: “The Lord Advocate is committed to reducing harm arising from illegal drugs and has taken appropriate measures within his power to reduce drug deaths, such as updating prosecution policy to assist the delivery of the overdose treatment naloxone during the pandemic.

“However, it would be the responsibility of legislators to establish a legal regime for the operation of a drugs consumption facility through a democratically accountable process."

An NHS Forth Valley spokesman said: "A wide range of services and support is available for people in Forth Valley with addictions. There is no change to the criteria to access services and there are no restrictions which limit support and treatment to only those who are high risk.

"People can access support in a variety of ways including telephone and video consultations and face to face appointments if appropriate. Staff can also undertake home visits if necessary."