A few years ago on a trip to the Colombian interior, I spent a few days in Medellin. In case you are wondering why this is significant, is this was once the home of one of the most infamous Colombian drugs barons, Pablo Escobar; where he once lived and was once revered. His memory is both blessed and cursed, depending on who you are and who you listen to. We were preparing dinner when it became obvious, from the scent wafting over the next door neighbours wall, that someone next door had lit a blunt the size of a traffic cone. I joked and said the smell made me homesick.
The truth of the matter is that that was about as close to drugs as I got while in Colombia (not that I went looking). But here, well, I’m not even in the scene and every time I drive through the housing scheme on the outskirts of the Carrickshire town nearest to the farm where I’m currently staying, I know where the drugs deals are going down. I know that that BMW with Polish plates has something interesting the trunk. I know that the call box on the corner is where you dial for your stash delivery. If I know, the local authorities have to know as well. I never saw one drug deal in Baranquilla go down in broad day light. Ditto for the time I spent in central Mexico. But in my home town? Candy central, mate.
I don’t care that there’s no proof. Something is rotten in Carackshire, and the Cartels have to be paying someone off in Scotland. I’m convinced that my home county has a bigger drugs problem than most inner cities. It stinks, and what it chiefly stinks of is smack and crack. How in the name of all that’s holy did THAT happen? We’ve only got 300,000 people in the county and 4 million in the entire country. Since when did my sweet, beloved Caledonia become the drugs mecca of Europe?
Once upon a time, in Mexico (its a long story), I remember going to watch a movie and being struck by a public information “commercial”, encouraging people to resist paying municipal official sbribes. I remember thinking that if this level of honesty and openness continues, it will soon be the the case that Mexico will outstrip other countries in dealing with corruption in its many meretricious forms. But Mexico’s misfortune is that it borders the USA, and the cartels need to get their drugs there somehow, and what everyone knows in Latin America is that there there is a proportional relationship between how much drugs you have lying around your jurisdiction and how corrupt the public authorities are. Well, we have a lot of drugs here in Scotland, boys, what does that say about you?
I returned to Carrickshire (this place does not really exist, I’m too afraid of the local police to actually name the county,) Scotland in 2011 after some ten years living and working in several countries, to find the cartels had moved in, set up shop, and throwing parties day and night. Eastern demons like heroin and western demons like cocaine all found eager worshippers in my country which has suffered years of economic depression even when more affluent parts of the UK were in the “boom times”. In rural Carrickshire, the nineties and noughties were trapped in bust-bust cycles where whole communities had not worked since Thatcher closed the mines in the 1980s. Simple pickings then, for the cartels and triads, who engaged in direct marketing to children outside the school gates, while the police (they must have known, everyone else did) did nothing.
Boredom, despair and lack of social and economic opportunity made fertile ground for addiction. The result was a lost generation who have been out of their faces since their early teens, and now, in their twenties and thirties, have never worked and never will. The local special care baby unit resounds day and night with the terrible, heart-wrenching cries of premature babies born addicted to drugs and undergoing withdrawal within hours of birth. My country is addicted. My country also produces drugs. In the nearest town to me, recently featured in an infamous TV Documentary, the drugs trade seems to be just about the only economic activity taking place.
Now, speaking from experience, having worked in some of the world’s top narco-economies, no country in the world can do this without there being really significant corruption somewhere in the police, judiciary and border/customs agencies. Becoming one of Europe’s top producers doesn’t happen by accident. So when we hear of Scotland becoming an exporter of drugs, this means that the narcoeconomy has become established to such an extent that the national anthem to be sung at all Scotland-England football matches may as well be “Because I got high!” (Flower of Scotland doesn’t quite have that islande beat).
Whereas there is a certain level of honesty in places like Mexico and Colombia, Scotland is in denial about the extent to which her public authorities may be involved in the narcotics trade (and people smuggling, the two are nearly always done by the same criminal gangs, something to think about next time an honourable Sheriff is discovered going down “for a shave” at the local massage parlour). The fact the Cartels are here at all is a litmus test for corruption. Someone, somewhere, is on the take.
Coupled with the exponential increase in drugs and people trafficking, the police and Scotland are so ridiculously pathetic, you have to wonder what’s really going on under those official tables. When anyone with eyes and ears could point out where the drugs are being sold, and where its common knowledge in the area that our local airport is a soft touch on people traffickers (hint, for the Scottish Government – that means someone is being paid to turn a blind eye or are just too stupid to see what’s going on, because they got the job because their Uncle Jimmy worked there).
Vamos, Escocia, try harder, before we’re buried under a mountain of snow no Met Office warning can predict. If I wanted to live in a corrupt narcoeconomy, I’d move back to Baranquilla – better weather, better food, cuter guys (who can dance) and you have the outside chance of meeting an honest cop. Vale!