Councillors told ‘stop obsessing about nonsense’

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A ‘bonkers discussion’ was how a senior member of Scottish Borders Council

described a debate on the drinking of alcohol in public.

Michael Cook (East Berwickshire, Ind) made the remark during Thursday’s full council meeting.

Members were discussing recommendations to consult the region’s five area forums, local community council and the public on proposed by-laws prohibiting the drinking of alcohol in public places. Without the by-laws, the police are limited in relation to when they can confiscate alcohol.

But some of the assertions in the report came under fire from several councillors, including Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East, SNP) and Catriona Bhatia (Tweeddale West, LD).

Mr Bell felt it was not relevant for the report to cite health aspects of the issue.

“And with regard to public safety, it is a spurious argument to say 31 local authorities have these by-laws – where is the evidence for this improving public safety?” he asked.

And Mrs Bhatia had concerns the evidence seemed to have been been built up to shore up the recommendations.

Councillor Ron Smith (Hawick & Hermitage, LD) said to claim alcohol problems were prevalent in the Borders was “overstating the case”.

However, Councillor Michelle Ballantyne (Selkirkshire, Con)said all such a by-law would do is give the police the power to prevent incidents becoming something more serious.

And it was at this point Councillor Cook had clearly had enough: “I’m not sure it’s really that edifying for people to hear such a bonkers discussion.

“There’s no ambiguity. It’s been said from day one that community councils want the police to have this power – they recognise there is an issue.

“If the nature of this paper has changed it’s because we asked for it to do so. We need to stop obsessing about nonsense and get on with this.”

Councillors unanimously agreed the views of area forums and community councils should be sought.