Drug gangs in Glasgow are paying children to spy on their rivals, new research has found.

Organised crime groups pay kids to run “reconnaissance” missions on other gangs’ turf.

Dr Robert McLean, from Northumbria University, said: “Kids would be used to transport drugs, to hold drugs or provide information, or some reconnaissance.

“Maybe if you wanted to get information on another dealer and what they were up to, you could say to some kids, ‘hang around in this area and tell me what’s going on there’.”

Dr McLean said that gangs recruited their members’ young relatives for ‘recce’ and odd jobs, such as delivering parcels.

“Mainly it was people they were related to, or people they had close ties to, like friends’ children and stuff like that,” he said.

“So it isn’t just random ­children from the street.”

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He interviewed drug dealers and gang members for a new paper on the Scottish drugs market, published last month.

He found that most drugs in Scotland pass through Glasgow, after being smuggled from cities in England or Northern Ireland.

The market for cocaine and heroin is now so saturated that gangs are starting to sell drugs in the villages around the city.

“We found that criminal gangs who were up and coming couldn’t rise to the top of the food chain in Glasgow and the West coast,” he said.

“They were actually the ones sending to more rural villages, and running the supply chain that way because the Glasgow market was quite saturated”.

“When you have someone moving down from Glasgow who had strong links in Glasgow and muscle, they would be able to sell cheaper drugs and they would have the muscle to back it up.”