New campaign highlights how ‘county lines’ drug gangs exploit young Scots

A charity has launched a new campaign to raise awareness about criminal gangs targeting children as young as eleven to carry drugs and money around the country.

Fearless – the youth service of independent charity Crimestoppers – is working with British Transport Police and Police Scotland to highlight the dangers of county lines, which see criminal gangs set up a drug-dealing operation outside their usual area.

The groups move their dealing from big cities across the UK to smaller towns in Scotland in order to make more money and force young, often vulnerable people to transport cash and drugs all over the country, including by train.

Drug gangs will then set up a new base in a rural area for a short time, often forcibly taking over the home of a vulnerable person and using local young people to act as dealers for them.

The campaign, supported by Network Rail and ScotRail, is using a series of anonymised true stories on Snapchat and TikTok to warn young people of the dangers of becoming involved.

Lyndsay McDade, national youth projects co-ordinator at Fearless, said: “Serious organised crime gangs are exploiting children as young as 11 years old in Scotland.

“Often they target particularly vulnerable young people and either groom them or recruit them using violence and intimidation.

“That’s why it’s crucial that young people and parents/carers alike recognise the signs to look out for and understand the devastating impact that these gangs have.

“If you know or suspect who is behind the drug gang exploitation of young people and vulnerable adults, please go to and tell our charity.”

The charity is urging young people and adults to speak up anonymously with information if they suspect someone is involved with county lines.

It has also recorded a special podcast for parents and carers with Daljeet Dagon, programme manager from Barnardo’s Scotland, who gives crucial advice on the signs to look out for.

She said: “The ultimate thing that can happen, unfortunately, is that young people can be found dead. They can be harmed in significant ways. They can become addicted to drugs.

“They can also fear for their lives. They’re unable to sleep, they’re unable to relax as they always need to watch their backs. They can also become disengaged from family and friends in an attempt to keep them safe.”

Police urged anyone with information to contact them, or report information anonymously at:

Detective Superintendent Garry Mitchell of Police Scotland said: “Exploiting the most vulnerable in our society is the approach of those who operate county lines.

“They intimidate, coerce, threaten and use violence to groom young people and force them to transport, store and sell drugs for their own despicable benefit.

“We will continue to work in partnership with Fearless, Network Rail, British Transport Police and other key stakeholders to safeguard individuals who are recognised as being at risk, and are grateful for their support.”

Police Scotland youth volunteers are also helping with the scheme.

Chief Inspector Brian McAleese, of British Transport Police, said: “County lines gangs target young and vulnerable members of society, and exploit them to run harmful drugs between locations, which can be hundreds of miles apart.

“As a force, we are dedicated to identifying and safeguarding those exploited in this crime type to pull them out of harm’s way and away from a life of crime.

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