A PETERHEAD publican who has battled for almost a decade to have a public drinking ban enforced in the town, has welcomed the news that a ban will come into force on February 20 this year.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has given Aberdeenshire Council permission to introduce the ban on the public consumption of alcohol so that it will be an offence to consume alcohol in a designated public place within Peterhead.
And Aberdeenshire Council has introduced new alcohol byelaws which will make it an offence for any person who consumes alcohol in a designated public place and fails to desist when requested to do so.
Announcing the move, Mr MacAskill said: “Public drinking is often a nuisance and can greatly hamper the quality of life for residents in a particular area.
“All local authorities, in Scotland, already have such byelaws in force and that demonstrates how seriously local authorities are tackling the problem of reducing the nuisance and disorder commonly associated with public drinking.
“I will continue to support other councils that come forward with similar byelaw proposals for designated places.”
There are four different offences that the local authority can choose from. It is up to the council to decide what offence is suitable for its needs. Any person who is guilty of breaching the byelaws is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500
Commenting on the news, publican Raymond Matthew said it was “a step in the right direction” but raised a number of concerns.
“Let’s just see how it’s implemented. We must be wary of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he said.
“When we started the campaign in 2002 we were told then that without CCTV it would not be enforceable, so my question is, what has changed.
“It will be interesting to see how this is enforced, but given the extremely limited Police resources in Peterhead I doubt whether we will see an imediate impact.
“I also wonder if we’ve gone too far with this. What happens to the folk at the Lido in their caravan who are enjoying a glass of wine with a picnic?
“It is discretionary or is this a blanket ban? We also called for this before the smoking ban came into force, so how does it affect those smokers who are outside premises with a drink?
“I think there’s a lot of detail yet to come out, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cllr Stuart Pratt welcomed the news stating: “It’s taken a long time coming.
“Posters are being ordered so that we can get them up in February in time for the introduction of the ban.
“People can still have a drink their garden - that’s part of the reason we took time to cover all discretionary areas,” he said.
“It’s certainly not there to keep people from enjoying themselves, it’s to stop those drinking in public places who are a nuisance to others.”
Cllr Stephen Smith was also delighted with the news, saying: “While we’re fortunate in Peterhead in that we don’t have an extensive problem with street drinking, there are problems which need action to address them.
“The important thing is that we give the local police the tools to do the job so that if people are creating a nuisance in a public place as a result of alcohol, they can be dealt with.
“I know from colleagues in Elgin and Lossiemouth where they have also introduced street drinking bans that these have been very successful so I’m sure it will be equally as effective in Peterhead.”