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Police / Community safety chair vows to do ‘everything we can’ on Dogs Against Drugs funding

Photo: Dogs Against Drugs

NO NEW funding source has been identified by the Scottish Government for the Dogs Against Drugs charity, according to local MSP Beatrice Wishart.

The Liberal Democrat recently held a meeting with cabinet secretary for justice and home affairs Angela Constance about the charity’s funding situation.

It comes amid continued calls for greater financial support for Dogs Against Drugs (DAD), including from Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross earlier this year.

Councillors on Shetland’s community safety and resilience board also made the case on Wednesday for improved funding for the charity – with chairman Allison Duncan saying “we’ll do everything that we can”.

In a letter to the board, Wishart said Constance “does appear to recognise the important work of the charity”.

“But as the Scottish Government does not offer core funding, she explained that there is difficulty in trying to identify a source or a particular fund that DAD can apply for,” the MSP continued.

“She was keen to explore whether DAD could apply for another Serious Organised Small Crime Scheme Grant if a new project could be presented for consideration, and her officials are happy to offer advice in that regard to DAD.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News.

Wishart also confirmed there is no mechanism to apply for funding from the Cashbank For Communities scheme until 2026.

“Although no new funding source has been identified, the meeting was useful in highlighting the work of Dogs Against Drugs and its value and importance to Shetland,” the MSP added.

Wishart also said she pointed out to Constance that without the charity there would be a greater cost on the public purse in the long term.

“It is not unreasonable to assume that could mean operational delays to the work of the police, as well as additional costs to the police budget,” she continued.

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“Bringing dogs and handlers in each time they are needed here, rather than having a permanent presence in Shetland would, I believe, have a negative impact on the preventative and educational work currently carried out in the community by Dogs Against Drugs.

“There could also be a subsequent impact on already stretched health services.”

At Wednesday’s meeting chief inspector Stuart Clemenson said around £750,000 of drugs had been seized in Shetland in the last 18 months, with the dogs playing a vital role in this.

The Shetland area commander said police staff have been drafted up to the isles recently to carry out searches of homes linked to known drug dealers.

Meanwhile Clemenson told the meeting that he understood it costs around £200,000 a year to operate Dogs Against Drugs.

It is heavily reliant on donations, and its budget is said to be tight. It does not receive direct funding from Police Scotland.

Lerwick councillor Neil Pearson said it was “absolutely crazy” that Dogs Against Drugs could be struggling financially given the work that it does.

Clemenson, however, did say that the £2.2 million-a-year Viking Energy wind farm community benefit fund could be a potential avenue for funding that might be explored.

Councillor Duncan said the board would seek talks with police with regards to Dogs Against Drugs funding.

Meanwhile it was announced earlier this week that long-serving drugs dog Thor was retiring from service after nine years.

The police said he was responsible for more than £1 million worth of drugs being recovered.

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