Ridding Edinburgh's streets of beggars won’t help to solve homelessness

If the sight of someone who’s down on their luck truly revolts you that much, maybe you don’t deserve to be in Edinburgh’s city centre at all

Share
Related Topics

Businesses in Edinburgh are calling for the city’s streets to be cleared of beggars in order to create a ‘harassment-free’ retail district. Why?

Apparently enough complaints have been tallied up by traders and tourists to the point where local group Essential Edinburgh is set to launch a petition that will seek support for a new bylaw prohibiting begging within Edinburgh’s city centre. The move is almost as naïve as it is heartless.

According to Andy Neal, the Chief Executive of Essential Edinburgh, which runs the city-centre business improvement district, beggars are hurting Edinburgh’s economy by scaring tourists away from shops.

“Shoppers just want to avoid them and in the process avoid the store as well,” Neal told The Scotsman. “We also know that hotels have had feedback from guests of different cultures and nationalities saying they were upset by seeing begging and think there are other crimes or underworld activities going on that they should be afraid off.” Are you kidding me?

As a weekly visitor to Edinburgh, I can’t help but wonder what type of naïve and inconsiderate individuals would actually go so far as to complain to a hotel or avoid a shop just because there’s a beggar seated nearby. Walk on Princes Street – the city’s main shopping thoroughfare – any given day, and you might encounter two homeless people per every 1,000 metres. These will almost always be kind men who are silently seated – perhaps with a cardboard sign – and a cup full of change, minding their own business. They don’t take up much space, I’ve never seen one approach a pedestrian and they hardly utter a word. In fact, if it weren’t for their attire or makeshift signs declaring their penury, you might easily mistake them for someone who’d merely grown tired of shopping and had decided to sit down and have a quick break. If only.

I’ve never avoided a shop that I truly wanted to enter just because there was a homeless man hanging around outside – why would anyone? If they make you feel that bad about the obscene amount of money you’re about to spend in one of Edinburgh’s high-end boutique shops, drop 50p in their cup and carry on. But if the sight of someone who’s down on their luck truly revolts you that much, maybe you don’t deserve to be in Edinburgh’s city centre at all. After all, you know what’s even worse than seeing a homeless man take up your valuable shopping space? Being homeless.

Sure, Essential Edinburgh might get their petition turned into law, and then we’ll no longer encounter a couple homeless people on our way to throw money at things we don’t need – and as a result, maybe it would help the city’s trading revenue increase by a fraction of a per cent; however, by allowing this to happen we’d be turning our backs on the people who actually need our help. Ridding the streets of beggars won’t help to curb the city’s issue of homelessness – it will merely brush it under the rug.  Shouldn’t we place more emphasis upon helping people get a roof over their heads before we turn to ask what we can do to improve the lives of our wealthy shop owners?

Five years ago, the world was outraged by the ‘social cleansing’ Beijing carried out before the start of the 2008 Olympic Games. They removed beggars, homeless people and all other social ‘undesirables’ from the city so that tourists wouldn’t be scared off by the real face of Beijing. In fact, that’s exactly the sort of behaviour that's caused many to declare the Chinese government a violator of human rights. If the people of Edinburgh seriously consider this proposal to ‘cleanse’ their streets, what makes them any better?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bahrainis on an anti-government protest in May  

Hussain Jawad's detainment and torture highlights Britain's shameless stance on Bahraini rights

Emanuel Stoakes
August 1923: Immigrants in a dining hall on Ellis Island, New York.  

This election demonises the weakest

Stefano Hatfield
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003