DATA INSIGHTS -Postal deliveries of drugs in Scotland

Our ‘Data Insights’ briefings share snapshots of findings from research being conducted across the centre. This week, Research Fellow, Ben Matthews shares findings from his work on the increase of illegal drugs being delivered by the postal service.

Improved internet connectivity means that it is not just Scotland’s cities and main urban areas that have quicker and easier access to the internet, with developments in technology there are now effective internet services in more remote and rural Scottish locations. Whilst this brings many advantages to those communities, it also makes it easier to anonymously access sites on the internet and the ‘darkweb’, known as ‘cryptomarkets’ to order illegal drugs. These drugs are then delivered via standard postal services.

Whilst the media has raised concerns (BBC News, 2018) about this issue, it has been difficult, up until now, to access data detailing how Scotland is being impacted by this new source of illegal drugs. We believe that administrative data can give a new perspective on how drugs flow between jurisdictions through the postal system.

Our research using data collated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) has allowed us to analyse the destination of illegal drug consignments en-route to Scotland from overseas and conduct research on the number, nature and spatial distribution of the intercepted drug parcels.

Our findings show that the majority of drug packages delivered through the postal service were destined for highly populated urban centres but there was also a higher than expected rate of delivery (based on population size) to more remote and rural Scottish locations.


For a summary of the geographical distribution of the packages, and how this data can help policymakers, please read our Data Insights article.


For a more detailed report on the novel Illegal Consignments dataset provided by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as well as suggestions for ways in which this data source could be used in the future to better understand the distribution of  drugs packages, please read our full Dataset Description.

This article was published on 16 Jun 2020