THREE ex-cops are bringing a global initiative calling for radical change on “ineffective drug policies” to Scotland.

Simon McLean, Ian Andrew and Jim Duffy, all retired police officers, are behind the launch of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (Leap) in the country.

Former undercover cop Mr McLean said: “I have been involved in the war on drugs since 1978. And I have been an advocate since the first minute of 1978 to decriminalise drugs because our prisons are full of low-level drug addicts who are as much victims as anyone.”

In 2018, a record number of people died in drug-related deaths, with 1187 lives lost across Scotland. Glasgow remains one of the worst-hit cities with the latest statistics showing 290 people died.

Backed by Leap UK, the Scottish branch will launch on January 19 in Glasgow.

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Mr Duffy, one of the earliest members of Leap UK, was an inspector and was the chairman of the Strathclyde Police Federation before retiring in 2007.

“It is important that we don’t miss any opportunity to raise this issue in the public consciousness,” he said.

“We have a war on drugs in this country and across the globe. We are failing drastically. We have a completely unregulated industry and the way we have tackled it is to lock up people at the sharp end who are in possession of small amounts.

“If you want it to change then you have got to do something and we want politicians to realise that and to change the law.”

Mr McLean from Possilpark spent years of his career fighting Glasgow’s drug trade – which has only reinforced his view that the current approach is not the best way forward.

The 61-year-old said: “Every time the police clamp down, they strengthen the dealer’s hand. Because the dealers become tougher, they try to search out informants and punish them.

“We want change now.”

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Retired police inspector Mr Andrew believes bans in the past only strengthened criminal elements within their market.

He said: “Where a ban is in place but a demand exists criminal elements will fill that void and they have a vested interest in increasing their market.

“We need to remove drug supply from that black market and manage it as a health issue, improving the health of users and protecting them and the people who must interact with them.”

The organisation will be joined by a range of politicians, lawyers and former officers, and a director of Leap UK, Suzanne Sharkey, will also sit on the branch’s committee.

Leap UK chairman Neil Woods added that the group, made up of former law enforcement staff, hopes to change public perception of drug problems, saying people are “poorly informed about the effects of drug policy”.

He said: “Us cops distort the truth. We have changed the public to believe what success in drugs policing looks like.

“We have trained them to see these pictures of doors being smashed in and press releases of a big seizure.”

But despite police efforts, he argues there is no reduction in the drugs market.

“Nobody ever goes without their drug of choice,” he said. “What we do is change what organised criminals make the most money from it.”

Mr Woods described Mr Duffy as an “admired member” of Leap UK.

He said: “I admire Jim particularly because unlike most of our members he actually spoke out while he was still a serving police officer and I think it was very brave of him to do so.”

The chairman of Leap UK full-heartedly backed the Scottish launch, saying: “Scotland does have a different problem.

“If you take Scotland just on its own it has the highest drug deaths in Europe and this is compared with previous extreme examples of poor drug policy such as Estonia who previously dominated these figures.”

Police Scotland’s head of drug strategy Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie emphasised the force’s drug strategy is “public health-led” and founded on “harm reduction” which he said was demonstrated by the launch of intra-nasal Naloxone spray as a first-aid response to someone experiencing an overdose.

He added: “Police Scotland recognises the role of a modern police service is far removed from the dated description of anti-drugs operations experienced by previous generations of officers.

"Our officers remain fully committed to targeting groups or individuals who are involved in serious organised crime, and selfishly seek to obtain financial benefit from exploiting some of the most vulnerable people in society by selling illegal or controlled drugs.

"We are dedicated to making Scotland a hostile environment for such groups to operate.

"The highly significant successes we have seen recently, in partnership with the NCA and Border Force, in disrupting these kind of activities underlines this commitment, and our support of the country's Serious Organised Crime Strategy and Taskforce."