Majority of Scotland's crime gangs '˜involved in drug trafficking'

The threat posed by criminal gangs in Scotland is increasing, according to a new report.

A majority of organised crime gangs are involved in drug trafficking, new data reveals.

A National Crime Agency (NCA) assessment of the extent of organised crime in Scotland, written in association with Police Scotland, found the number of groups is falling but the threat they pose is rising.

Police are investigating 164 known organised crime groups (OCGs) in Scotland comprising 3,282 members, the report states.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The increasing risk posed is partially blamed on “ongoing feuds, violence and firearms incidents” relating to Central Belt crime gangs and police warn that despite recent firearms seizures these groups still have ready access to such weapons and some are prepared to use them in public.

The shooting of Euan Johnston as he waited in his car at traffic lights in Glasgow was said to have sparked “numerous reported and unreported acts of further violence”.

The 26-year-old was gunned down in the city’s Tradeston area in November 2016, the only shooting murder in police records for 2016/17.

Last week, David Scott, 33, was jailed for a minimum of 22 years after being found guilty of his murder.

Judge Lady Stacey told him: “The attack was a premeditated, murderous assault involving the use of a lethal weapon. It can be correctly described as an execution.

“It was carried out in a public street.”

The NCA report states: “There is a current threat and harm presented by feuds and rivalries between six main OCGs operating in the east and west of Scotland.

“The situation escalated in late 2016 resulting in the shooting and murder of an individual connected to OCGs.

“This then led to numerous reported and unreported acts of further violence. The risk is heightened by access to firearms, including automatic weapons.

“A number of the attacks have been carried out in public places.

“Despite recent firearms seizures, it is assessed that the OCGs continue to have ready access to firearms that some may be willing to use within public places.”

The strategic assessment of serious and organised crime for 2018 states two-thirds of organised crime gangs in Scotland are involved in drug trafficking, with Spain, followed by Holland and China, the main non-UK supply areas for illegal drugs heading to Scotland.

Liverpool is said to be the primary source of drugs supply to Scotland with “significant connections” between criminal gangs in the two areas.

Earlier this year an organised crime gang has been jailed for a total of 87 years after a police probe into violence, drugs and firearms offences.

The nine-man gang included cocaine dealer Mark Richardson and soldier turned 
gun-runner Martyn Fitzsimmons.

The police investigation into the gang uncovered what was described as “a sophisticated web” of offences, which included the “merciless” torture of a man over an unpaid cocaine debt and a huge arsenal of weapons found hidden in a car.

The crimes spanned the years between 2013-17.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told a hearing in December that the crime gang was “the most sophisticated encountered by Police Scotland”.

Police Scotland said the gang “were responsible for bringing fear and misery to communities across Scotland”.

Crime gangs are also involved in human trafficking across Scotland, with sex trafficking said to mainly involve adult women from Romania or Slovakia being exploited by perpetrators from these same countries.

Perpetrators and victims of people trafficking for slave labour in Scotland also tend to share a country of origin, the report states, including Latvia, Vietnam and China.

The report indicates abuse of the Common Travel Area between Loch Ryan and Cairnryan ports in Dumfries and Galloway, with commercial ships said to have been used in relation to human trafficking, immigration abuse and “potential extremist travel”.

Roll on/roll off freight ships are said to have been used to enable illegal immigrants and Class A drugs to get into Scotland.