Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 17:03 UK

Purcell admits cocaine blackmail fear

Steven Purcell
Steven Purcell resigned from the council citing stress and exhaustion

The former leader of Glasgow City Council has admitted using cocaine and told of how this may have left him open to blackmail.

Steven Purcell told The Scottish Sun newspaper that he had taken the drug a "handful" of times.

He also said police warned that there could be video footage of him using the drug which might be used for blackmail.

The Labour councillor quit as leader of the authority on 2 March, citing stress and exhaustion as the cause.

The 37-year-old told the newspaper he had used cocaine on several occasions after being first offered it at a party.

He blamed his own "stupidity" for his decision to take the Class A drug and explained how it eventually led to a visit from police.

He told the paper: "Two officers from the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency came along.

I was contemplating suicide. I thought to myself - life isn't worth living like this
Steven Purcell

"They told me that during the course of an investigation they came across information that could mean I would be subject to blackmail because of the use of cocaine.

"They said there might be a video of me using cocaine and that could be used to blackmail me.

"The last time I used it was a year ago, a few weeks before the police came to see me. I told close colleagues at the council about it because I think it's important to be honest."

The former Labour councillor for the city's Drumchapel and Anniesland ward also said that he had problems with alcohol before he decided to step down.

He told the newspaper he had suffered from "increasing feelings of loneliness" in the months before his decision to step down as council leader.

'Rock bottom'

He said he started to drink heavily at the beginning of the year, using alcohol as "crutch" to help him cope when he was "low or stressed".

"I had gone from being normal to hitting rock bottom. I was basically having a nervous breakdown," he said.

"I was contemplating suicide. I thought to myself - life isn't worth living like this.

"It was at that point I called my family and told my family how I was feeling and that I was considering resignation."

I must apologise to my family, my constituents who loyally elected me, my friends and my colleagues who may feel I ran away from things
Steven Purcell

He told how he decided to seek professional help and booked himself into the Castle Craig clinic in Peeblesshire, from where he tendered his resignation as council leader by telephone.

He said: "I must apologise to my family, my constituents who loyally elected me, my friends and my colleagues who may feel I ran away from things."

Mr Purcell was first elected to Glasgow City Council in May 1995.

He served as convener of development and regeneration, then education before becoming leader, at the age of 32, in 2005.

Following his resignation, there have been calls for Strathclyde Police and the public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, to investigate allegations about how council contracts were awarded under Mr Purcell's leadership.

Both bodies confirmed last week that they would not proceed with any investigation.

'Operational matters'

Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill said that while there were questions to be answered surrounding Mr Purcell's departure, he could not launch an inquiry.

"These are operational matters, whether it's for Audit Scotland, whether its for the police," he said.

"It's for other organisations to take steps to make sure that questions are answered and we can be satisfied in the great city of Glasgow that situation is as it should be."

The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) said it was unable to comment specifically on any contact it may have had with Mr Purcell.

Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, director general of the organisation, said: "As we have made clear on a number of occasions over recent weeks, the SCDEA has a long-standing policy of not confirming the details of any individuals who they may have had contact with in carrying out their day-to-day work to disrupt and dismantle serious organised crime.

"Serious organised crime groups also thrive on information. The less they know about the 'who, what, where, and why' of our approach, the less chance they have of changing their tactics to evade our grasp."

Meanwhile, Glasgow City Council has confirmed that a by-election, in Mr Purcell's former ward of Drumchapel and Anniesland, will be held on 6 May.

It will be run on the Single Transferable Vote system. The closing date for nominations is 13 April.

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