All posts by adamjbell

Christmas cocaine crackdown

Courtesy of HeatherJox3 via DeviantArt

by Adam Bell

The Scottish Government has launched a Christmas campaign to reign in the use of Britain’s most acceptable class A drug.

Spread across 140 Scottish pubs, targeting 18-24 year-olds, the Know the Score campaign will promote the message that you do not know what you are getting with cocaine.

“Young people often see cocaine as a harmless, even glamorous drug, a problem which is compounded by its falling cost and increased levels of availability across the country,” explained Nick Smith, Manager of the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership, who are backing the campaign.

Surveys have shown that cocaine is the second most used drug amongst young people, and that the majority believe the drug to be relatively safe.

The government campaign will seek to show the truth about the drug, and the real side effects, including sweats, paranoia, anxiety, chest pains, a raised heart rate which can lead to heart attacks and an greater risk of strokes.

Research has shown that whilst both male and female users are at a greater risk of having a heart attack, it is males who are twice as likely to die from taking the drug.

One reason behind the campaign is the revelation that Scotland has one of the highest user rates of the drug in the world: according to a United Nations report published in June, 3.7% of the population are users.

Prof Graeme Pearson, from Glasgow University‘s Unit for the Study of Serious Organised Crime, highlights another issue: “Over the last decade the purity values of the drug have fallen very significantly. Ten years ago purity values were over 40% – today they’re below 20%, sometimes 10%, and as a result the price has also fallen.”

The campaign with take place on two fronts: first there will be a radio, cinema and online advertising campaign costing £269,000.

The second is in the field, with weekend events scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights for the next four weeks.

The field team will display campaign material in all participating venues, while questioning young people about their experiences and opinions of the drug, and offering advice.

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety, confirmed: “The key message of this campaign is clear – you don’t know what you’re getting when you take cocaine. Cocaine is not a harmless drug; the risks to health of individuals and communities are as serious as they are significant and that’s why this festive period we are taking the message across Scotland to highlight the dangers.”

Alongside the Alcohol and Drug Partnership, the campaign has received backing from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the National Union of Students and Young Scot.

The weekend events start in Edinburgh this Friday and Saturday [12th & 13th November], before moving to Glasgow the weekend after.

Environment – Preparing for change

Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) Belly Camera
Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr

A report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) seems to suggest that recent engagement with eco-friendly activities may be too little too late.

The report, published last month, focusses on the urgent need for the UK to prepare for the effects that climate change will have.

Describing the report as “a wake-up call” Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman explains: “There is no part of our society which is immune from the effects of climate change.”

The report is the first of its kind to look not at how we should be looking to prevent global warming, but how businesses and homes should be adapting for the future.

Floods, heatwaves and droughts have all been forecast using computer models of climate change.

“The UK must start acting now,” said chairman of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee, Lord Krebs.

It has been highlighted that preparing for the future may in fact help to reduce the overall effects of global warming.

“Super-insulating our homes and buildings will keep them warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and will also cut fuel bills,” said policy and campaigns director for Friends of the Earth UK, Craig Bennett.

But does this mean that recent activity has been in vein, or should institutions still do everything they can do reduce emissions and help those dependant on them to be more environmentally aware?

Many universities have recently invested large sums of money in being more eco-conscious.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is very much behind this campaign.

On the NUS website students are reminded of the “Three Rs”: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

An interesting sub-topic on the page is the reference to the Freecycle network: an online community divided into cities where people can offer and receive goods for free.

Freecycle goods range from compact televisions to sofas and even to large quantities of garden soil – for people who may be interested in helping the environment by growing their own food – another suggestion on the website.

It seems that awareness itself may not be the issue.

Joe Boyd studies Chemical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and said, “I think that students and young professionals do know enough about environmental issues, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean they make any more effort.

“Awareness isn’t the problem: people know it’s bad but if it takes effort they often forget or can’t be bothered.”

Alasdair Murison, also a Heriot-Watt student, confirmed Boyd’s opinion: “there should be more incentive to act environmentally, as many are aware, but see practicality and comfort as more important.”

The CCC report was not completely negative, however, highlighting the possibilities that a warmer climate may bring.

Wine production could become more common and the South East of the UK may be able to grow fruits like apricots and lemons.

Nimrod crash victim’s family receive compensation

The family of an airman killed in the Afghan Nimrod disaster have received damages from the Ministry of Defence.

In an appeal hearing last Wednesday, Judge Lord Pentland heard the MoD defend a decision to award the serviceman’s mother and daughter up to £100,000 each.

Mr. Webster, speaking on behalf of the MoD, said that the amount the Ministry was being sued for was “unreasonable”.

Whilst accepting that the Ministry was at fault, and was liable to pay damages, they felt that the family’s “loss must be quantified”.

Mr. McMillan, speaking for the pursuers, acknowledged the MoD’s “Catalogue of failings” with regards to the Nimrod case and the unsatisfactory “root and branch approach” to fixing the issue.

Maintaining that the accident, in 2006, should never have happened and should not happen again, Mr. McMillan also drew attention to the time it took for the crash victims’ relatives to learn the facts of the accident.

It was left to the jury to decide the sum of compensation due to each of the mother and daughter separately.

They were told to base their calculations on three criteria: the distress and anxiety caused to the family; their grief and sorrow; and their loss of a family member’s support in non-monetary terms.

The mother eventually received a total of £90,000 and the daughter £60,000.

Further cases regarding the Nimrod disaster are being heard in coming weeks.