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Not a high point in drugs debate

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Issue 1742

Daily Record march

Not a high point in drugs debate

Kevin Ovenden reports from Glasgow

THE MARCH in Scotland over drugs which has been pushed by the Daily Record went ahead last Sunday. The newspaper has been running a vicious campaign against socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, who has argued for a more rational approach to the drugs issue. The Daily Record boasts that four in ten Scots read the paper-1.5 million people.

Just 4,000 people came on its march despite free transport laid on by millionaire bus baron and anti-gay bigot Brian Souter. The Record on Monday claimed that 20,000 people marched. But the whole demonstration took 19 minutes to pass-with about 200 people going by each minute. The march clearly did attract working class people who are frightened about the spread of dangerous drug use, mainly heroin injecting. Their concern was genuine. The Record’s motives were not.

Most people on the march who spoke to Socialist Worker said they were there to show that they wanted to stop vulnerable young people turning to dangerous drug use out of desperation. “Just because I am here does not mean I agree with the Record,” said Sandra Irvine from Maryhill in Glasgow. “It has been pushing its own agenda. But it said this was a march to stand with the victims of drugs, and that’s why I am here. We need to look at ways of dealing with the problem.”

The Record’s campaign has cut against any serious debate over drugs. It abused anyone, particularly Tommy Sheridan, who pointed out that US-style policies over drugs have failed in America’s inner cities and in Scotland over the last ten years.

Yet it has laid into campaigners who have argued, along with the doctors’ British Medical Association and other ultra-respectable bodies, that treating cannabis the same as heroin was a dangerous and failed policy. Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie used the opportunity to put himself in the front row of the march.

Yet 18 years of Tory rule created much of the despair on working class housing schemes that lead some people to take drugs that can damage them. The Record was full of moving stories on Monday from people whose relatives had died from illegal drug use. But the paper and politicians could offer them nothing except pious words.

Stop drugs hypocrisy, says Tommy

“THE HYPOCRISY of the Record is sickening,” said Tommy Sheridan at a packed rally called by the Scottish Socialist Party on Sunday afternoon. The Record claims its campaign is non-political. But it has tried to create a witch-hunt against Sheridan.

Its editorial on Thursday of last week said he was “the human equivalent of the single minded lowlife” found under rocks on the beach. And it called on people “to remember this when the general election is announced” and at the next Scottish parliamentary elections.

Sheridan’s crime is to have told the truth. Equating cannabis use with heroin use and failing to treat heroin addicts through prescriptions on the NHS have made problem drug use worse. He pointed out that only a few months ago the Record was giving away coupons for cheap lager. Over 1,000 people in Scotland die every year from alcohol-induced liver cancer.

Tobacco kills 13,000 people in Scotland every year. Cannabis is not known to kill anyone. Yet three quarters of all drug convictions in Britain are for cannabis possession.

Kevin Williamson, who writes on drug policy, spoke at the rally. He listed the countries that have now decriminalised cannabis and are dealing with heroin use by prescription through GPs. They include Switzerland, where drug use is plummeting.

There were cheers when speakers challenged the Record to call a march against poverty, which the Scottish Executive’s own Social Inclusion Unit has identified as the “main pathway to heroin use”.

Asbestos battle

Employers ‘murdered those men’

ANOTHER MARCH in Glasgow last weekend, over deaths from a deadly dust, did not even get a mention in the Record on Monday. Over 400 people marched in Clydebank over the ongoing scandal of asbestos. Thousands of former shipyard workers in Glasgow, and many others across Britain, were exposed to the killer dust in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. “We were never told there was a danger,” former shipyard worker Bert Storer, age 69, told Socialist Worker. “But it has been revealed that the employers knew all the time.”

Men in their fifties and sixties across Glasgow are now coming down with lung diseases, such as mysothelioma, caused by asbestos. “We were breathing the stuff in every day,” said Bert. “There was no safety equipment. They murdered those men. And now we are having to battle every inch of the way for compensation.”

A worker from the Scot Lithgow yard in Greenock said, “We are demanding the government steps in. We are more deserving than their rich pals.” The insurance company dealing with the workers’ claims, Chester Street, has gone bust. Auditors raised problems over the company two months after it was set up in a merger deal. Robert Hardy, the company’s chief executive, got a “success” bonus payment of 439,000. He jumped ship before the collapse of Chester Street.

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