The First Minister has been pressed for a long-term funding solution for Dogs Against Drugs.
The charity, which has been running since 2002, is seeking core funding to allow it to continue the work it does – both for Police Scotland and through an educational programme.
Isles MSP Beatrice Wishart highlighted the charity in the first session of First Minister’s questions since the return of the parliament from the summer recess.
Staff at Dogs Against Drugs are trained as Special Constables and qualified as licensed police drugs dog handlers.
Current funding is from a range of sources, including sponsors, grants and donations – but is struggling to meet its £200,000 annual running costs.
Chief inspector Stuart Clemenson warned last month’s community safety and resilience board that drugs would be slipping through the net without detection, were it not for the work of the charity.
The dogs were instrumental in seizing £750,000 worth of substances since the start of 2022 alone.
It comes after calls for Dogs Against Drugs to receive support through the proceeds of crime funding.
However, as a charity, it is not deemed to be eligible.
Ms Wishart asked the First Minister: “The Dogs Against Drugs charity assists Police Scotland with search and seizure of illegal drugs arriving in Shetland, alongside its educational preventative work.
“Police Scotland’s Shetland area commander has credited the dogs with a vital role in drug seizures in Shetland, with a value of around £750,000 in the last 18 months.
“And one dog, Thor, is retiring and is credited to have found an estimated one million pounds worth of illegal drugs over his nine-year career.
“But without core funding, the charity’s future is under threat and if it ceases, it will likely cost the taxpayer more in the long run.
“I recently met with the Justice Secretary to discuss the issues, but I wonder if the First Minister would agree with me that Dogs Against Drugs is an important asset to both Police Scotland and the Shetland community and that it would be a significant loss were it to cease.”
The First Minister stated that he supported the charity and the Scottish Government would be open to doing more to support the charity in the difficult financial circumstances the government is operating in.
The charity, which began in 2002, is seeking core funding to allow it to continue the work it does both for Police Scotland and its educational programme.
Current funding is from a range of sources including sponsors, grants and donations.
The charity’s staff are trained as Special Constables and qualified as licensed Police Drugs Dog Handlers.