The scale of heroin abuse in Shetland, as highlighted this week by Sheriff Graeme Napier as he sent a local man to prison for being a link in one of the supply chains for this awful drug, is deeply worrying. Yet public revulsion remains relatively muted, perhaps because in an affluent community people can afford to be addicted while holding down good jobs, as Andrew McAlister proved. Or, as with alcohol, folk are content to turn a blind eye.
Unlike in most other communities in Scotland, there is no attendant crime wave here, no stream of reports of thefts and break-ins or worse. The issue thus remains hidden. Given the high detection rate and the jailing of a series of individuals for supplying and possessing heroin, it is clear that new supply chains are forged as quickly as others are broken.
While the police will continue to work hard to track down and deal with those behind the drugs trade, senior officers now recognise that a lot more needs to be done on the education front to highlight the destructive nature of heroin.
Hopefully those who have been affected by drugs, either directly or indirectly, will come forward to help out in this. The age of trying to scare people is now mercifully in the past; constructive engagement and real understanding has to be the way forward.
: : : : :
Yet another warning will be made to councillors next week that they are in danger of spending woefully beyond their means on providing services in the isles. This time, it will come from the council’s own head of finance, Graham Johnston. The stock response of most elected members, no matter who raises the issue, is to hope that it will simply go away. Politics is about choosing how to spend scarce resources, not agreeing to every request made for money. It’s time some difficult choices were made.