Shops selling legal highs in Scotland are facing a crackdown, with trading standards officers being given new guidance to deal with the issue.
The nationwide toolkit aims to ensure officials use the best practice and best laws to stop retailers who sell legal highs, also known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
The guidance came in response to a review of NPS policy, ordered by the Scottish Government and published in February.
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “This will be a vital tool for trading standards staff on the frontline in enabling them to take action against the unscrupulous and profit-driven suppliers of these dangerous substances and to thwart the efforts of any organised criminal gangs involved who care nothing for the damage they cause.”
According to official statistics, between 2009 and 2013, 203 deaths were recorded where legal highs were present in the bloodstream, often alongside other substances.
A Bill to ban all legal highs across the UK is currently being considered by Parliament.
Under existing law, individual legal highs are banned on a case-by-case basis, but the new legislation would introduce a blanket ban on all such substances.
A Home Office minister said the Psychoactive Substances Bill would “put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them”.
The Government said the Bill would make it illegal to produce or supply any “substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect”.
The legislation, which is similar to a law in the Republic of Ireland, would carry a maximum seven-year prison sentence.