SCOTLAND should consider legalising all drugs, according to an SNP MP.

Ronnie Cowan says the war on drugs has not worked, and has given his support to a campaign group who believe all narcotics should be made freely available and regulated.

The Inverclyde politician has organised a meeting with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (Leap), in Gourock’s Gamble Halls this Thursday to “start a conversation” about how to tackle Scotland’s drug problem.

“We’re not talking about giving drugs to people,” Cowan tells The National. “We’re talking about legalising the process so it can be controlled, so addicts know what they’re getting, the quality of what they’re getting, the purity”

The MP accepts that it’s a controversial topic and that he’ll likely take pelters for putting his head above the parapet. There’s little public appetite for such a radical change in the law, which, in any case, is reserved to Westminster under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. But, Cowan says, the current system makes as much sense as the US decision to ban alcohol between 1920 and 1933.

“During prohibition in Chicago, the crime rate was escalating. The day after they ended prohibition it dropped like a stone. People didn’t have this thing to fight over. It was controlled. It was legalised.

“We’ve a battle on our hands to educate people exactly what we’re talking about.”

In 2015 there were 706 drug-related deaths, the largest number ever recorded, up 15 per cent on 2014, and more than double the figure for 2005. It’s more than three times the number of people who died on Scotland’s roads.

Speaking at the meeting will be retired Strathclyde Police inspector, Jim Duffy, who has been a strong advocate of change in the drug laws since leaving the force in 2005.

“The war on drugs is completely lost, unwinnable,” he says. “And all we’ve done in the last 44 years is criminalise a generation of people and made some bad people very rich.”

“Leap’s position is that we would like to see the legalisation and regulation of all currently illegal drugs, and that’s not just cannabis, that’s heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, you name it,” Duffy adds.

“If you sniff it, snort it, inject it into your body, provided you’re over 18, and you know that purity, the strength, the effect and your responsibilities, then you should be allowed to do it.”

There is, Duffy says, sympathy for his position in the force, he calls it “green room syndrome”; senior officers privately agree with him, but as soon as they’re in public, say the opposite rather than face the backlash.

There has been a global trend towards relaxing drug laws, except in Britain, where they remain fairly strict. Recently, however, the SNP conference backed a motion to allow cannabis to be decriminalised and prescribed.

Though during that debate Renfrew Councillor Audrey Doig warned delegates that cannabis was a gateway drug, and talked of her cousin whose “brain was mush” because of all the drugs he had taken.

Duffy says he thought that debate, and the backing of the motion, though it will have little real-life impact, was a positive step: “We’ve been fed the message for years that drugs are bad, just say no, and all that. The stark reality of it is that a lot of people enjoy a joint, a lot of people enjoy a line of coke. It’s a choice thing.

“More people die from the effects of alcohol in Scotland, 7,000 people a year, 13,000 people die from the effects of tobacco, there’s not a single recorded death in Scotland from cannabis. You cannot smoke enough cannabis to kill yourself. Yet we insist on banning it,” Duffy says.

“The reason the drugs trade is widespread and profligate is because we’ve banned it and we’ve lost control of it, and because we’ve lost control of it, people who know run the market are the criminals. And it’s the criminals who decide what it is you smoke, what the strength is, what it’s cut with, what the purity is, and they don’t ask for identification.”