Glasgow calls time on street drinking

Glasgow, the former European City of Culture, which likes to portray itself as a civilised city where alfresco wine bars sit happily alongside old-fashioned pubs, has decided to take the drastic step of making its streets alcohol-free.

Worried about the growing number of street assaults and breaches of the peace related to hard drinking, and the use of beer bottles as portable weapons of violence, the police and the city's Licensing Board have approved a new by-law to prohibit street drinking. Offenders may be fined up to pounds 100.

The by-law legislation is now in the hands of the Scottish Office and will become law by the autumn.

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.

The chairman of the city's Licensing Board, James Coleman, confirmed that the measures were intended to solve the problem of drink-related crime. However, he accepted that committed street drinkers may simply move to other areas.

There is also concern among some city senior officials and police officers, as to how the ban is to be enforced. One official said: "... no one is quite sure how this prohibition will work."

Concern over drink-related violence centred on the numerous pubs and clubs in streets and squares around the city centre. The trend towards drinking beer out of the bottle has meant that many customers take their purchases with them when they leave the pub. And if there is subsequent trouble, a ready weapon is to hand.

The ban aims to stop people removing beer bottles, but how it would apply to citizens lawfully buying bottled or canned alcohol from off-licences, and drinking them peaceably, is something the council and the police will have to decide.

Chief Superintendent James Guy said his force's concern was with violent street crime, especially in the the Argyle Street, St Enoch's Square and Charing Cross areas of the city.

Yesterday, however, away from the city centre, in the park area of Kelvin Grove opposite Glasgow University, impromptu picnics were taking place. Ian and Eileen, two undergraduates, were astonished at the prospect of street prohibition. Ian said: "Pardon? A drinks ban? You mean this picnic could become an illegal subversive gathering?"

Eileen, on the other hand, appeared to take her prohibition lessons from the United States of the 1920s. "We'll just have to hide the stuff in the vacuum flask, won't we?" she said.