Pubdate: Sun, 09 Aug 1998
Source: Scotland On Sunday 
Contact:  James Murray Home Affairs Editor


Muddled approach to epidemic means drastic rethink needed to save lives
THE man charged with leading the country's battle against drugs has admitted
there is no coherent policy to tackle the current epidemic of deaths.

David Macauley, director of Scotland Against Drugs, says a total review of
government pilicy is urgently needed to try and stem the appalling number of

And yesterday he was supported by SADs chairman Sir Tom Farmer who said the
1.5m extra pledged by the government to fight the drugs menace in Scotland
was not enough.

Speaking following the death last week of 18-year-old Julia Dawes after
taking the rave drug ecstasy, Macauley said: "The current policy has failed
and the sooner people realise this the better. There has to be a dramatic
rethink because there is no coherency. I don't like having to say this but
it is the stark truth."

Macauley wants to see a drugs tsar appointed for Scotland to lead a fresh
drive to cut the spiralling number of deaths.

Former chief constable Keith Hellawell, the UK-wide drugs tsar appointed by
Tony Blair, has only made a few fleeting trips to Scotland and is seen by
many to be remote.

Macauley also called on the country's eight police forces to get far tougher
in dealing with the major dealers who are flooding Scotland with cheap
heroin, ecstasy and other drugs. "The police should use maximum force to
deal with the cancer that is eating away at the heart of society," he said.
He would like to see more armed raids of hardened criminal enterprises to
try and disrupt the supply.

The death last week of Julia Dawes, a fitness instructor from a wealthy
Perthshire background, brought the drugs epidemic sweeping Britain into
sharp focus. She collapsed at home last Sunday after a night out at the Ice
Factory Club in Perth where she took the tablets.

Farmer's comments were made after Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar announced
on Ftiday that an extra 1.5m would be made available over the next three
years towards SAD's Challenge Fund which provides money for community-based
anti-drugs projects.

Farmer said the money was a fraction of the cash that was actually needed
and called for more donations from the business community to fund a new
campaign. He said he was "frustrated" by his organisation's inability to
mount major campaigns. "We should be advertising a very stong antidrugs
message," he said. "There should be posters up in the streets, schools and
in the workplace. Raising awareness among everybody does have major impact.

"The message should be... if you take drugs you can be damaged for life or
killed. We have got to get that message through. There needs to be fresh

Although the focus last week was on ecstasy, heroin related deaths in the
Strathclyde region reached 62 so far this year, compared with 51 for the
whole of last year. Heroin with purity levels of 70%, compared with 6% in
the 1980s, is thought to be responsible.

Yet although the number of fatalities appears to be increasing, the role of
SAD, set up two years ago to provide a high-profile lead in the battle
against drugs, has been downgraded. The finances to run powerful TV
advertising campaigns has been stripped from SAD, which is now concentrating
on education project in schools and raising money from business.

Its neutered role following criticism that its Say No message was being
ignored has left it largely impotent. SAD now only consists of five people,
two of whom are paid by donations from companies.

Another problem is the open and simmering dispute with another agency, the
Scottish Drugs Forum, which has a 'harm reduction' information role,
producing booklets on drugs. Macauley believes this strategy sends a mixed,
confusing message to the pnblic.

Put simply, it is that you cannot have a policy on the one hand which calls
for harm reduction running alongside a campaign with a simple Just Say No to
drugs message.

Macauley argues: "The philosophy of minimising damage has failed. We have to
have a drugs-free policy. Not maintenance on drugs, but being free of drugs."

Macauley wants the television industry to stop portraying the so-called drug
culture which gives an element of glamour and chic to a deadly and
destructive way of life.

He also wants to see a strategy that targets all sections of society.

"Most adults in middle Scotland are in denial," he said. "The more affluent
they are the stronger the denial seems to be." A SAD roadshow in Perth, the
town where Dawes took the ecstasy, attracted just six people, whereas in
less affluent towns hundreds of people turn up.

The funeral of Julia Dawes will take place on Tuesday, preceded by a
'celebration' of her life. Police have charged four people with drugs
offences but are still investigating the death and the drugs network in
Perth. Yesterday the family who live in the hamlet of Redgorton, released
more pictures of Julia's last days, including one with her father Alan,
mother Jacqueline and her 16-year-old brother Jonathan.

Educated at public schools, including Morrison's Academy, Julia had been
awaiting the results of an HND exam in business studies. She worked as a
fitness instructor at the family's gym in Perth and was about to spend three
weeks at the Lucy Clayton finishing school in London.

Yesterday senior police officers outlined their views that the Scottish
Office should also strengthen its armoury in the drugs battle by setting up
a centrally co-ordinated drugs squad.

Sir Leslie Sharp, former chief constable of Strathclyde police, believes a
Scottish Drugs Squad would provide a more effective, strategic response to
the dealing problem.

At present, each force has its own drugs squad. Although the Scottish Crime
Squad has its own drugs team, but there is no central drug force. I believe
that if you have one national police force for Scotland then you should have
one drugs squad." he said.

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Checked-by: Melodi Cornett