Campaign to tackle underage boozing in Borders making comeback

Councillor Watson McAteer, second from left, with Hawick rugby players, from left, Shawn Muir, Bruce McNeil and Dalton Redpath.
Councillor Watson McAteer, second from left, with Hawick rugby players, from left, Shawn Muir, Bruce McNeil and Dalton Redpath.

Police, health chiefs and rugby bosses are joining forces to tackle problems caused by underage boozing at the Borders’ annual Kings of the Sevens contest.

Irresponsible adults caught buying alcohol for anyone under 18 during the annual rugby tournament won’t be in seventh heaven but will instead be potentially facing a three-month jail sentence or £5,000 fine, they are being warned.

The Scottish Borders Safer Communities Team – made up of council, police, fire brigade and alcohol and drug workers – is reviving its Don’t Buy It, Don’t Supply It campaign, launched in December, to issue that warning ahead of the biggest date in the competition’s calendar, this Saturday’s Melrose Sevens.

The initiative aims to remind Borderers that new laws introduced in May last year make it an offence to supply alcohol to anyone under 18 in a public place.

Youngsters at Galashiels Academy and the town’s TD1 Youth Hub came up with the slogan ‘don’t buy it, don’t supply it’ and provided an initial poster design.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer, chairman of Scottish Borders Council’s police, fire and rescue and safer communities board, said: “The Kings of the Sevens circuit is an iconic and hugely popular competition for the Scottish Borders.

“It brings thousands of rugby supporters to communities across the region over a number of weeks and provides numerous spin-off benefits.

“However, it can also lead to an increase in underage drinking in our communities, which is why the Don’t Buy It, Don’t Supply It campaign has returned.

“This campaign was inspired by young people from the TD1 Youth Hub and Galashiels Academy, who came up with the initial idea, and we hope it provides a clear message to adults about the legal, health and societal issues associated with underage drinking.

“These include the potential for a significant fine or even prison for any adult caught supplying alcohol for young people.”

Hawick Rugby Club helped launch the revived campaign, and John Thorburn, its president, said: “We are pleased to support this worthwhile campaign and look forward to ensuring our own sevens tournament on Saturday, April 21, is safe and enjoyable for all who attend.”

Tim Patterson, chairman of the Borders Alcohol and Drugs Partnership and the region’s joint director of public health, said: “Teenage drinking can have an immediate and long-term impact on health, and the earlier teenagers start drinking regularly, the greater the risk of problem drinking in adulthood.

“It is really important that adults consider their responsibilities.”

Inspector Tony Hodges, of Galashiels police station, added: “We want everyone to enjoy the Kings of the Sevens series in a safe environment, including our young people.

“However, we do experience more young people under the influence of alcohol at this time which can lead to youth-related anti-social behaviour.

“I would continue to urge parents and guardians of all young people to discuss the dangers associated with under-age drinking with their children.

“The Don’t Buy It, Don’t Supply It campaign sets out clearly the consequences of supplying alcohol to under-18s, which could result in a criminal record for the adult involved.”

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The Kings of the Sevens spring games got under way at Galashiels on Sunday, April 1, and, after Melrose this weekend and Hawick the Saturday after, will continue at Berwick on Sunday, April 22; Langholm on Saturday, April 28; Kelso on Saturday, May 5; Earlston on Sunday, May 6; Selkirk on Saturday, May 12; and Jedburgh on Saturday, May 19.