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North-east drug issues questioned at Westminster

By Kyle Ritchie

High-profile drug swoops in the north-east have been put under the spotlight in a Westminster inquiry.

The UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee is taking evidence on problem drug use, asking questions of academics and experts on the front line.

Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid asked a panel to give their opinion on the impact of “cuckooing” and “county lines” dealing in local communities.

Police in the north-east seized 4kg of heroin in the region over an eight-week period.
Police in the north-east seized 4kg of heroin in the region over an eight-week period.

His questions followed May’s police figures that 4kg of heroin was seized in the region over the course of eight weeks, and reports of renewed drug problems in the constituency.

In the 1990s, the coastal community of Fraserburgh was dubbed Scotland’s heroin capital, a reputation which has improved in the last 20 years.

But local police said cuckooing – the practice of gangs using vulnerable people to supply drugs – is on the increase.

Mr Duguid asked: “Historically, there was a widespread drug problem in the north east of Scotland, in my constituency in particular – Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

“That’s something that’s improved in recent years.

“But the police have been making fairly high-profile arrests recently where class A drugs are concerned.

“It appears that out-of-town dealers, not just from the central belt in Scotland but further afield in England and Wales, are using these more rural communities.

“Is it not the fact the resources are so thin on the ground in these rural communities, it makes these places a target for out of town dealers, for these so-called cuckooing or county lines operations?”

Dr Iain McPhee, of the University of the West Coast of Scotland, said there is an underlying demand which is being met by organised crime.

He said: “Of course, these networks and organisations are going to move in when there’s a profit to be made.

“The reason there is a profit to be made is there is a demand for these products.

“How do we reduce the demand? This appears to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

Police Scotland seized a total of 3.9kg of heroin in March and April, along with 6.1kg of cannabis – charging 355 people.

They included a 16-year-old after £10,000 worth of class A drugs were recovered in Fraseburgh and a 37-year-old after £29,000 worth of cannabis was recovered in Aberdeen.

Some £50,000 of heroin was seized at Aberdeen Ferry Terminal.

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