Edinburgh City Council has seized £50,000 worth of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) as part of a huge crack down on legal highs, in one of the most ambitious policing efforts on the issue in recent times.
The crackdown is part of “Operation Redwall”, a Police Scotland-led multi-agency approach which has been running for over four years, in a move to target over 50 premises across Scotland suspected of selling NPS.
Police Scotland targeted 13 head stores in Edinburgh known to sell NPS. Eight of the stores voluntarily handed over New Psychoactive Substances.
Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said: “We have made it clear to a number of premises that if they do not comply with this order they can expect to face further action, including prosecution.”
There were 114 deaths related to NPS across the UK last year. Last month, The Student reported that Edinburgh had been branded the “legal high capital of the UK”.
Edinburgh City Council was the first local council in Scotland to be given forfeiture orders from The Sherriff Court.
A spokesperson for Police Scotland told The Student: “Police Scotland is committed to Keeping People Safe and tackling the issues associated with New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
“The term ‘legal highs’ is extremely misleading and creates the perception of safety, particularly to young people. There is no safe way to take NPS, there is always a risk. The only way of staying safe is to avoid NPS altogether.
“Police Scotland is presently working in partnership with COPFS, Scottish Government and other Criminal Justice partners, in the UK and across Europe, to tackle the challenges presented by NPS in advance of legislation being formulated by the UK Government.
“Outlets for these substances continue to be identified and proprietors challenged over their responsibilities, and the ever-evolving activity of organised criminals who seek to profit from these substances remains a focus of our activity.”
Speaking to The Student on the broader threats posed by the substances, a spokesperson for The Scottish Government Drugs Policy Unit said: “Due to the challenges in responding to the emergence of NPS, evidence on the harms of their use is limited.
“However, there are indications that NPS can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms ranging from cardiovascular problems and seizures to psychological disorders such as anxiety, agitation, memory loss, depression and psychosis.
“There is no doubt that the issue of NPS poses many other challenges to Scotland and I would confirm that the Scottish Government is taking a proactive approach to tackling NPS.
“NPS is a local, national and international challenge made more complex by an ever changing market. The Scottish Government established an NPS Expert Review Group to review the existing legal powers available to tackle the sale and supply of NPS in Scotland.”
The Home Office published the UK Psychoactive Substances Bill which will create a blanket ban of psychoactive substances across the UK. Subject to parliamentary approval, it will be implemented in April 2016.
“This ban will help to protect people from the risks posed by taking these untested, unknown and harmful substances. Although the control of drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act is a reserved matter, the Scottish Government is working closely with the Home Office on the detail of how the bill can work in the best interests of Scotland.”
Reacting to the news, Marco Biagi, MSP for Edinbugh Central, told The Student: “I’m glad that Trading Standards have taken a decisive lead on this issue in advance of legislation that will close the loophole allowing dangerous substances to be sold on the high street.
“The NHS have raised serious concerns over the impact of NPS in Edinburgh. Traders have been selling risky substances without any understanding of the long-term impact these could have on users, many of whom were struggling with existing addictions and using NPS as a substitute.
“It is not right that those selling these products have been able to do so under the pretence of a legitimate business.”
Image: Wikicommons: PostDLF