Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland ‘must resist' Westminster controlThe Scottish government spent £3million of taxpayers money on mobile phones that it
Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland ‘must resist’ Westminster control
The Scottish government spent £3million of taxpayers money on mobile phones that it claimed were “unhackable” in June to allow prisoners to stay in touch with loved ones during lockdowns. But prison officers say that approximately a third of the devices have been tampered with and have been used for drug deals and other criminal activity.
John McTavish, Prison Officer at HMP Barlinnie told ITV News: “You give a prisoner a phone, and they’re very, very ingenious.
“If they put their mind to something, they can do anything at all. Within hours, the tamper proof was gone.
“I checked the phones in one of the halls here in March time, and of the 300 prisoners that were there, it was probably about 100 phones tampered with altogether.”
According to the Scottish Prison Service, at least 728 phones have been found to operate with illegal SIM cards since August 2020, making it far easier for prisoners to communicate with the outside world undercover.
The drugs bought with the prison phones have often been thrown over prison walls, but other methods include soaking letters in drugs that the prisoner can later dissolve in water and drink.
These covert methods of smuggling are becoming more ingenious and harder to expose, according to prison guards, and the decision made by prison bosses and the Scottish government to gift the inmates with phones has made the job of preventing drug abuse even harder.
Nicola Sturgeon’s latest scandal highlights the depth of the drug crisis in Scotland
The phone scandal comes at a time when Scotland has the worst drug addiction rates in Europe, with more deaths caused by drugs per capita than any other country.
In fact, Scotland’s drug deaths have hit a record high for the seventh year in a row, with a total of 1339 people losing their lives to drugs in 2020.
In 2019, the Scottish Prisoner Survey found that 45 percent of prisoners reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offence, and four in ten prisoners said they had used illegal drugs at some point while in prison.
Prison officers have reported that the drug crisis is now “worse than ever before”.
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The three most commonly reported drugs taken in prison were cannabis, subutex, and benzodiazepines.
In recent years, demand for benzodiazepines, known on the street as “benzos”, has increased exponentially.
The drug is widely available and sold for as little as 50p per pill, and often used to self-medicate for psychiatric disorders, negative emotional states and withdrawal symptoms.
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Since 2015, drug use and drug deaths have more than doubled and critics of Ms Sturgeon say that her failure to tackle the emergency, since she came to power in 2014, has led to a human crisis that is spiralling out of control.
In August, Scottish Conservative Meghan Gallacher called on the SNP government to take urgent action as the numbers of those dying has “spiralled” since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.
Ms Gallacher said: “These statistics are truly horrifying and heart-breaking.
“We need to see the SNP Government take urgent action now.”
She added: “The system is broken, and drug deaths have skyrocketed in recent years.”
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Deaths caused by drugs are the highest amongst the older generation, mainly men, who have used heroin for decades.
In 2019, roughly three people lost their lives every day to drugs in Scotland, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) of all drug-related deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54.
Drug abuse is 17 times higher in Scotland’s poorest areas compared to the wealthiest, where people do not have access to opportunities in education and employment.
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In a statement made to the Scottish Parliament by Ms Sturgeon in January accepted responsibility for the government’s failure when it came to the drug crisis.
She said: “The fact is all of these people – and those who died in years gone by – were in some way failed by us.
“Responsibility for that rests – first and foremost – with government.
“And the failure is not just a moment in time.
“Anyone who ends up losing their life as a result of drug addiction, is not just failed at the time of their death – in most cases, they will have been failed repeatedly throughout their whole lives.
Drug users prepare cocaine before injecting inside of a safe consumption van set up by an activist
“I believe that if we have the will, we can and we will find the ways to stop this happening.
“Doing so requires a national mission to end what is currently a national disgrace.
“It is a reasonable criticism to say that this government should have done more earlier, and I accept that.”
Do you think First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should stand down over the Scottish drug crisis? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.