Comment: ‘Right to draw line in sand’

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YOU’VE got to fight for your right to party, or so the song goes. It is not known whether city council leader Andrew Burns is a fan of the 1980s hip hop band the Beastie Boys, but he has captured their sentiments perfectly in his defence of the Capital’s open-air drinking culture.

Of course, Councillor Burns is a serious politician and there is a serious purpose behind his words.

We may only be divided by the length of the M8, but there are significant differences between Edinburgh and Glasgow – and we are not talking salt and sauce versus salt and vinegar.

Each city has its own challenges, its own priorities and its own habits and customs.

We have far more in common, naturally, than divides us, but what works in one city does not necessarily work in the other.

Alochol-fuelled anti-social behaviour, when it occurs, is clearly a serious issue, and must be tackled where it is blighting people’s lives.

But there is a danger in an indiscriminate approach which fails to properly draw a distinction between drunken yobs and the so-called cafe culture which visitors and residents alike enjoy.

It was a hugely important part of the roaring success of this summer’s Fringe.

That is now part of what visitors expect in Edinburgh – and what many of us residents enjoy about living here.

It is important to recognise there is as yet no suggestion that Police Scotland is planning the kind of crackdown that could be extremely damaging to the city’s economy, but there is a growing concern about whether the priorities of the new national police force always reflect those of the city.

The crackdown on saunas, the increased use of stop-and-search powers and the debate about future council funding of community policing have all raised concerns in some quarters about the approach of the police. Cllr Burns is quite right to draw a line in the sand on an issue like this.