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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
MSP seeks heroin policy rethink
A farmer extracting opium from a poppy blossom
Dr Wilson says destroying the crop is counter-productive
An MSP has urged the Scottish government to consider supporting a buy-up of Afghanistan's opium crop.

Nationalist Bill Wilson has submitted a motion calling for the issue to be investigated as part of a "national and international drugs and crime policy".

Dr Wilson acknowledged the move would be controversial but claimed the current policy of destroying Afghan opium crops was counter-productive.

He also said that such a scheme would require international funding.

A UN report published on Monday found that 90% of the world's supply of opium was produced in Afghanistan.

The West of Scotland MSP suggested that buying the crop rather than destroying it could be "highly cost-effective" in promoting peace within Afghanistan and the safety of British armed forces who are involved in hostile action with the Taleban.

Alongside this, it could cut domestic crime and treat heroin addicts, he added.

Medical heroin

He said: "In Afghanistan desperately poor people rely on opium as a cash crop.

"I understand that merely attempting to destroy the crops is not only ineffective in that vast and inaccessible country but also counter-productive in that it fosters bitterness and resentment."

The MSP said that if the drugs crop was bought it could be used to make medical heroin for prescribing to addicts or for use in the NHS and he urged the matter to be brought before parliament.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "Of course there must be international co-operation to tackle the supply of drugs.

"We will contribute to this. In Scotland we are keenly focussed on supporting the police in their efforts to crack down on the drugs trade."

The politician's motion came after Tayside Police Chief Constable John Vine called for addicts to be given heroin free on the NHS.

The real issue is reducing dependency and dramatically cutting the number of addicts
Annabel Goldie
Conservative leader

Mr Vine said the time was right for a debate on "socially unacceptable options" to tackle heroin abuse and its impact on crime.

In response, Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said there were currently no plans in Scotland for prescribing class A drugs for long-term addicts.

However, he said he agreed with Mr Vine that there must be "a coherent policy that detains in prison the dangerous in our society, but looks to treat the troubled - like those on drugs".

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: "We could endlessly debate whether or not to prescribe legal drugs and buy up the world supplies.

"But the real issue is reducing dependency and dramatically cutting the number of addicts and that is where I will focus my energies when I meet with the first minister to drive forward a new agenda for tackling drugs in Scotland."


SEE ALSO
Afghan opium production 'soars'
25 Jun 07 |  South Asia
Police chief's radical drugs call
25 Jun 07 |  Tayside and Central
Drugs seizures reach record level
22 Jun 07 |  North East/N Isles
Police discuss heroin supply fear
03 Mar 05 |  Scotland

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