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Drugs debate
Deputy Justice Minister Angus MacKay and anti-drugs campaigner Gaille McCann
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BBC Scotland's Peter Strachan
"If the post mortem results are as predicted, Kerry-Ann will be just one of 146 drug death victims so far this year"
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Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 10:50 GMT
Campaigner urges new anti-drugs effort

Drugs kit Police say they have had success in drugs war

A drugs campaigner has called for fresh resolve to tackle Scotland's drugs problem after it was believed to have claimed its youngest victim this year.

Gaille McCann warned that the war against drugs has been hindered by public apathy and government inaction as the family of 15-year-old Kerry-Ann Kirk came to terms with her death.

Ms McCann, of the Glasgow campaign group Mothers Against Drugs, said the Scottish Executive must act to reduce the death toll, which is believed to have reached a record 146 in the Strathclyde region this year.

Gaille McCann Gaille McCann: "People are becoming immune"
She said: "I'm disillusioned that we're nearly a year into our Scottish Parliament and they're not really making any in-roads into the drugs problem.

"Policy makers should be prepared to talk to people to find out where the problem's coming from.

"A lot of people will just see this as another drugs death. A lot of people are becoming immune and it doesn't hit home any more."

Politicians expressed sadness at the death of Kerry-Ann, of Coatbridge, in Lanarkshire, but said strategies were in place to tackle the problem

Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar said: "This is tragic and alarming news.

"This is why we are putting 10m into a new Drug Enforcement Agency and appointing 2,300 more police officers in the fight against drugs."

'Outstanding seizures'

Strathclyde Police Chief Constable John Orr said the 146 deaths came despite "outstanding" drugs seizures throughout the region.

He said: "The force is extremely sensitive to the fact that every death of this nature leaves behind close family and friends, devastated by the tragedy.

"Society, as a priority, needs to utilise every means at its disposal to reduce and hopefully eradicate drugs deaths."

He called on friends and relatives to "have the courage" to report incidents of drug misuse.

Keith Hellawell Keith Hellawell: "Lifetime of devastation"
Young people have been urged to heed the warnings about drugs or pay with their lives following Kerry-Ann's death.

The government-appointed drugs czar, Keith Hellawell, warned that drugs created "one moment of deceived euphoria but a lifetime of devastation".

He said: "Parents must help us in this because the emptiness which a death causes is felt for the rest of the families' lives."

His views were echoed by Janet Betts, whose step-daughter Leah died in November 1995 after taking an Ecstasy tablet at her 18th birthday party in Latchingdon, Essex.

She said: "Dealers want to make money and they do not care how young the people are they sell to."

Many children were being tempted to take drugs in order to emulate idols such as pop stars who have openly admitted taking drugs, Mrs Betts said.

"Children are getting the impression that this is a safe thing to do, that everybody is doing it and why not experiment?"

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See also:
27 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Disbelief of 'drugs death' girl's mother
26 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Schoolgirl 'latest drugs victim'
30 Sep 99 |  UK Politics
Minister's emotional farewell to son
22 Sep 99 |  Scotland
Death turns spotlight on drugs problem
14 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Scotland 'leading drugs battle'
03 Sep 99 |  Scotland
Drug misery milestone
03 Sep 99 |  Scotland
'Aspiring to win the drugs challenge'

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