Alex Massie

Tales from Brave New Scotland

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Good grief. Needless to say, one of the more depressing elements to this story is the fact that it won't prove terribly controversial. That's to say, there won't be a fuss or a rumpus and you won't - alas - see any outrage from politicians in any party.

Pub-goers in Aberdeen are facing a drugs test before entering bars as part of a crackdown by Grampian Police.

Officers in the force will be the first in Scotland to use an Itemiser - a device which can detect traces of drugs from hand swabs in a matter of seconds.

The test is voluntary, but customers will be refused entry if they do not take part. They could be searched and even arrested if traces are found.

The device was trialled by the police force in the area earlier this year.

The Itemiser allows police officers or door staff to swab customers hands as they enter a pub or club. It can tell almost instantly if drugs are present - including cocaine, cannabis, heroin and ecstasy.

Customers who get a green reading are allowed entry to the pub, those who get amber are given a drug information pack and those who get red could be searched by police.

Det Supt Willie MacColl, national drugs co-ordinator for the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), said: "This project offers an opportunity for collaborative working to implement an alternative intervention that will help change attitudes and reduce demand for controlled drugs.

"We hope that over time the model can be developed and used by community partnerships in other towns and cities across Scotland to reduce the harm caused by drugs."

Ch Insp Innes Walker, of Grampian Police, said that as a result of the trial period in October "people had a greater confidence that they could enjoy a night out without fear of encountering drugs".

So, no need for anything like probable cause, no need for anything as quaint as the presumption of innocence and, naturally, it will be a "voluntary" scheme unless you want a drink. So, not so very voluntary. But, sure, it's only the people with something to hide who have anything to fear, right? Wrong. Who needs ID cards when we suffer this level of intrusion anyway? (Though ID cards will, of course, only make matters worse). Ghastly.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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