Approval being sought for ban on boozing in public in Borders

Events such as Hawick Common Riding would be exempt from the by-laws being proposed.
Events such as Hawick Common Riding would be exempt from the by-laws being proposed.

Drinking in public could soon result in fines of up to £500 if Scottish Borders Council’s bid to bring in new by-laws on alfresco alcohol consumption is given the thumbs-up.

Subject to the approval of councillors, the local authority is set to submit draft by-laws to the Scottish Government including a ban on outdoor boozing in designated areas throughout the region.

If approved, designated zones will be created in Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick and Jedburgh town centres and also in two villages, Newtown St Boswells and Coldingham, and anyone caught drinking outside in them will face being fined.

The proposed by-laws would not apply on common riding days or on Hogmanay, however.  

A report by the council’s chief legal officer, Nuala McKinley, set to go before councillors next Thursday, November 29, explains that other public bodies are in favour of the proposals, saying: “NHS Borders and Police Scotland continue to support the introduction of by-laws.

“Police Scotland had previously expressed their support of the by-laws with a view to reducing public disorder generally in the Scottish Borders.

“NHS Borders are of the view that there are significant public health benefits to their introduction and the most effective way to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol related harm is through tackling availability of alcohol, which includes reducing exposure.

“Stopping street drinking will contribute to this and to protecting vulnerable individuals and promoting safer communities.

“Both bodies remain of the opinion that by-laws would be a useful tool to assist and support other resources available.”

The council first proposed introducing alcohol by-laws back in May 2013 and conducted a seven-month consultation, including a public engagement questionnaire, with local area partnerships, community councils and the general public.

The report continues: “The majority of people who responded to the public engagement questionnaire were in favour of the existence of by-laws applying to towns with 1,500 people or more, and a similar majority were in favour of these applying to towns of 500 or more.

“Those that responded were also in favour of there being exemptions to the by-laws for common ridings, summer festivals and Hogmanay.

“The consultation report also detailed the response from area forums and community councils regarding individual settlements.

“It noted that there was support for the introduction of by-laws in certain areas of the Scottish Borders, specifically the communities of Eyemouth, Coldingham, Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh and Newtown St Boswells.

“The introduction of by-laws in other towns was not supported.”

The council blames the four-and-a-half year delay in making progress on drafting the by-laws on the bureaucratic process involved, including soliciting feedback from Police Scotland and the procurator fiscal.

If given the go-ahead at next week’s full council meeting, the by-laws will then be submitted to the Scottish Government for final approval.