A CONSULTATION on alcohol bylaws has shown that most people in the Borders feel there isn’t a problem with public drinking. 

Of the 392 respondents who expressed a view, 217 said there isn’t a problem with public drinking in the area, while 175 said they think there is. 

However, a further 99 said they don’t know, meaning that neither response represents a majority of public opinion. 

The debate over whether to introduce an alcohol ban in public spaces is set to return to Scottish Borders Council on Thursday October 31, when the results of the consultation are due to be presented to councillors. 

In November 2018, council officers suggested bringing in alcohol bylaws which could see people fined up to £500 for drinking in public in designated areas. 

Public bodies such as NHS Borders and Police Scotland are in favour of the bylaws, but at a meeting of Scottish Borders Council in December, councillors opted to consult on the public before bringing in a ban on public drinking. 

The consultation was designed to answer two questions: is the consumption of alcohol in public space a problem, and would the prevention of drinking in public help meet the council’s licensing objectives?

Of the 175 people and organisations who said they believe there is a problem with drinking in public, 160 provided further comments. 

One respondent in favour of alcohol bylaws wrote: “Alcohol is a problem in these areas during festival times. There are many people walking around freely drinking during these times. 

“This makes it difficult to identify those young people who are underage drinking when there are such crowds.”

Another wrote: “Intoxication in these areas is unpleasant to witness. In all cases we are entitled not to be subject to the loudness and antisocial behaviour this leads to.”

On the other hand, some respondents voiced their concerns about bringing in alcohol bylaws: “I think it’s a complex situation which deserves time and thought. I’m not entirely sure that reacting in a retrospective way is the best approach. 

“I feel there are many behaviours and traditions entrenched in Scottish and Borders society around drinking habits. 

“I feel personally that there are alternatives for many people socially that do not centre around drinking or going to the pub, such as the cinema, concerts, sports, dining out, etc., but not everyone has the imagination or willingness to explore these as valid ways to enjoy yourself.”

Another objector wrote: “Drinking in public places doesn’t cause a problem in itself. Issues arise when certain individuals drink alcohol to excess in any setting. 

“The problem, in my view, won’t be solved by a blanket ban on alcohol in public spaces. There are already laws to prevent antisocial behaviour but they need enforced.”

Police Scotland also provided a detailed response to the consultation. It reads: “Alcohol bylaws are used within the three other local council areas within Lothian and Borders, namely East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian. 

“By having such bylaws in force it assists Police Scotland in reducing anti-social behaviour and violence both of which are known to have an association with drinking in public. 

“Currently the Scottish Borders area is the only local authority area in Scotland that does not have bylaws restricting the consumption of alcohol in public places.”

NHS Borders, Borders Alcohol and Drug Partnership and Scottish Borders Children and Young People’s Leadership Group provided a joint response, which reads: “Alcohol consumption can take place in our communities’ private space as well as within licensed premises. 

“Not allowing people to drink in a public place will help to reduce the normalisation of alcohol being an ordinary commodity and builds communities and environments that supports a culture change and reduces exposure for our children and young people. 

“Public drinking can adversely affect the quality of life for residents and our communities. 

“Alcohol Focus Scotland report that one in two Scots experience harm from another’s drinking and often this harm is experienced in public spaces (although not necessarily from public space drinking). 

“In this study 37% had experienced harm to others in public places and this was mostly (51 percent) experienced by the younger age group (16-25).

“Alcohol bylaws can be used as an additional tool to reduce the nuisance and disorder normally associated with public drinking. 

“Licensed premises are well regulated within the Scottish Borders and provide the opportunity to consume alcohol in a safe environment. 

“The Scottish Borders is the only local authority area in Scotland that does not have bylaws restricting the consumption of alcohol in public places.”

Councillors will now be asked whether to conduct further consultation on two options: a blanket ban on public drinking to cover the whole of the Borders, or the introduction of an alcohol ban in certain areas of the Borders. Police Scotland has indicated it would prefer the first option, to ease the enforcement of the ban.

Furthermore, councillors are asked to consider undertaking a pilot scheme in specific towns, which could then be used to gather further feedback from the public.