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Saturday, January 23, 1999 Published at 23:23 GMT

UK Politics

Dewar declares war on drugs

Labour is keen to crack down on drug use

New moves to tackle drug dealing in Scotland - including civil court power to confiscate assets - have been unveiled by Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar.

Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar: "The drug dealer must be hit in the pocket"
The number of police officers tackling drug crime will double and an extra £5m will be spent on treatment for addicts.

Mr Dewar announced the measures at a meeting in Dunblane to launch Labour's campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections on 6 May.

"The drug dealer must be hit in the pocket," he said.

"The power to confiscate is on the statute book but the results have been a disappointment."

[ image: Donald Dewar:
Donald Dewar: "The drug dealer must be hit in the pocket"
Mr Dewar said civil cases would make it easier to seize drug profits as no criminal conviction was required and the balance of proof was different.

Civil courts can decide "on the balance of probability" that assets were the proceeds of drug dealing.

Doubling the 100-strong Scottish Crime Squad would help it tackle the drug barons who dominate supply lines, said Mr Dewar.

Police drug squad numbers will also double to 200 and the drug fight will be led by a new Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency.

The moves received a lukewarm welcome by Scottish Tories.

Their Deputy Leader Annabel Goldie said: "What is needed is a concerted, integrated policy, and that, I feel, is still lacking here."

Election campaign launched

Earlier Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott launched Labour's Holyrood election campaign, telling the Scottish party that from Monday - Burns Night - it had "100 days to get it right".

He said the party must show that Scotland still reflects the best of Burns' work - "a passionate concern for social justice and a spirit of internationalism. Everything that the SNP is not".

But Mr Prescott scolded Scottish Labour for its third-place result in the recent North-East Scotland European by-election, saying its efforts were "just not good enough".

He said Labour must "expose the inadequacies" of the SNP and he offered an election slogan for leader Alex Salmond: "Vote for a salmon, get a pilchard and you'll be done like a kipper."

But the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon hit back, accusing Labour of adopting "London-made" policies on tax and road pricing.

"Donald Dewar, rather than standing up for the Scottish interest, is happy to be Tony Blair's puppet," she said.

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