Arbroath legal high shop protest backed by Kirk

The Moderator of the Church of Scotland today pledged her backing to campaigners protesting against the opening of a shop selling legal highs only yards from an addiction support centre in the Angus town of Arbroath.

Picture: Phil Wilkinson

A major row has erupted in the town since Misty Heaven opened its doors in June, selling legal highs, bongs and chemical drug compounds described as “research chemicals.”

The shop in the town’s Fisheracre is only is two doors along from the Havilah drop-in centre, run by the local St Andrew’s Church to provide help and support five days a week for people suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.

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Last month around 60 angry protestors, including members of St Andrew’s Church and the town’s Old and Abbey Church, staged a protest outside the Misty Heaven, brandishing placards that read “Misty Heaven = Foggy Hell” and “Legal Highs? Legal Deaths.”

And today their campaign received a major boost when the Rt Rev Lorna Hood, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, voiced her concerns about the opening of the legal highs shop when she visited the Havilah Trust addiction support centre.

She said: “I am saddened and surprised that we have a shop like this two doors away from a place such as Havilah which is doing all it can to help those in the community affected by addiction problems.”

Mrs Hood continued: “Congregations across Scotland do all they can to help those affected by addictions and to offer support for their families. Likewise, CrossReach, the Church of Scotland’s social care provider – one of the largest care providers in Scotland - gives invaluable help and support to people and their families who have been affected by alcohol and drug related problems.”

During her visit she met the Rev Dr Martin Fair, the Minister of St Andrews who is leading the protest campaign. Dr Fair, who is calling for the shop to be closed, said: “Of course, anyone can go online and buy whatever they like but putting these shops on our streets, sandwiched between general stores, video stores and newsagents, lends them a degree of legitimacy which is unwarranted and suggests that the products being sold must be safe, which is untrue.”

A Kirk spokesman said: “All drugs, whether legal or illegal, have the potential to harm and this has to be kept in mind particularly when considering using substances branded as legal highs. Simply, because a drug is legal to possess, it doesn’t mean it is safe.

“Calling for a blanket ban on legal highs is not straightforward since many of the products which can be abused as psychoactive substance may be marketed as other, entirely innocuously named products, such as bath salts. The law would not be able to keep up with changes to drug classification or banning orders because of the pace of production of new psychoactive substance would render it ineffective.”

He added: “Although the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland does not have an official policy on “legal highs” the Church seeks a society where the choices people make are life enhancing rather than damaging. The Church’s work is to help make that vision a reality for people of faith and none.”

The Havilah centre was set up by St Andrew’s Church in 2006 and receives a funding grant of £42,000 from the Church of Scotland’s “Go for It Fund.”

Kenny Grant, the owner of Misty Heaven, said: “I don’t want to make any comment.”