Glasgow calls time on drinking on the streets

Ban hopes to stem violent crime and disorder in public places, writes Jason Bennetto
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Glasgow, a city which is renowned for its hard drinking, will start a blanket ban on open-air alcohol consumption from Monday, civic leaders announced yesterday.

It will be the first city in Scotland to operate such a ban in public places, although others have launched partial curbs. In England, a similar ban has been in place in Coventry city centre since 1988.

The new move was welcomed by police who said that in other parts of Scotland, similar but smaller bans have cut violent crime and public disorder.

Coupled with the ban, a proof-of-age identity card scheme will be also extended to all 1,500 licensed premises in an attempt to cut under-age drinking.

The ban will apply equally to people sipping glass of wine in the park as those knocking back cans of strong lager. Offenders face a fine of up to pounds 500.

The city's growing cafe-bar society will be exempt, providing drinkers do not stray far from the tables.

"I don't see any difference between somebody in the West End drinking beaujolais and somebody in the East End drinking Buckfast (strong wine)," said James Coleman, chairman of the city's licensing board. "If you want to drink your cheeky wee beaujolais you will have to go to one of the areas we are happy to license in the city centre."

He said the behaviour of people drinking in streets and parks was a nuisance to residents and shopkeepers, and often a "repeating nightmare" among football supporters on their way to matches.

Since January this year, according to police records, drink-related violent crime in Glasgow has soared: in city centres it is up by 50 per cent.

Mr Coleman added: "The problem isn't confined to youngsters. Adults who should know better are often the worst offenders.

"But there is a particular difficulty in many areas where youths are loitering and drinking in a way that is threatening, particularly to the elderly. "We want to give these streets back to the decent people who live there."

Pilot bans were launched in three areas of Scotland - Motherwell, Galashiels and Dundee - in 1989 and have since spread to a total of 14 areas, including Glasgow.

In Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, where similar by-laws were introduced last year, the legislation is being used as a launchpad for an overall police crackdown on street crime, vandalism, loitering and assault.

This, say police, has resulted in a 46 per cent drop in violent crime, a 21 per cent reduction in theft and attempted theft from cars, and a 7 per cent cut in vandalism, fireraising and malicious mischief.