Drugs offences in Scotland have more than quadrupled in the past decade. In England and Wales, drugs offences more than trebled between 1987 and 1997.

Keith Hellawell is the UK's anti drugs co-ordinator but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the powers to form their own national strategies.

England and Scotland's official strategies and aims are broadly similar, tackling the problem through local drugs action teams and a range of statutory and voluntary bodies, and anti- drugs organisations.

The new Scottish Executive has identified the drugs problem as one of its key priorities. It plans to set up Britain's first Drug Enforcement Agency which will take control of police and customs drug operations. And it will co-ordinate the work of all eight Scottish police forces and the Scottish Crime Squad. Money will be made available for an extra 200 police officers.

Drugs courts may also be set up by the Scottish Parliament. Intended to take some offenders out of the criminal system, the courts could order drug users to go into therapy or rehabilitation as an alternative to traditional punishments.

Drugs deaths in Scotland rose from 263 in 1997 to 276 in 1998. This year, the number of deaths in Strathclyde has already almost reached last year's total. In England and Wales, drugs deaths have risen consistently from 1,942 in 1989 to 2,816 in 1997.