Situating gangs within Scotland's illegal drugs market(s)

Robert McLean, James Densley, Ross Deuchar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


The Scottish government’s (2008) publication ‘The road to recovery:
A new approach to tackling Scotland’s drug problem’ elaborates and outlines the
Scottish National Party’s (SNP) desire to make Scotland ‘drug free’ by 2019. To
achieve this objective, the Scottish Government’s (2015) ‘Serious Organised
Crime Strategy’ (SSOCS) entails dismantling networks of drug supply. Yet
missing from this strategic planning is a) recognition of how, if at all, different
types of gangs are involved in drug supply, and b) how drug supply processes
actually work. Therefore, this article seeks to extend McLean’s (J Deviant Behav,
2017) Scottish gang model, which specifies a typology of gangs in Scotland, in
an effort to locate precise levels of gang involvement in the drugs market. This is
achieved by drawing upon Pearson and Hobbs’ (2001) hierarchical model of the
UK’s illegal drug(s) market. In-depth interviews with 35 offenders involved in
criminal networks and five practitioners, indicate that recreational Youth Street
Gangs are really only involved in ‘social supply’. Youth Criminal Gangs are
primarily involved in commercially motivated dealing at the low- to mid-levels,
including bulk-buying between the retail-to-wholesale markets. And enterprising
Serious Organised Crime Gangs operate from the middle-to-apex market level.
Conclusions which situate this gang typology within the illegal drug market(s)
are used to put forward recommendations aimed at dismantling of drug supply
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-171
Number of pages25
JournalTrends in Organized Crime
Issue number2
Early online date19 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2018


  • Drugs
  • gangs
  • Organised crime
  • Scotland


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