Today’s calls to ban begging in the city centre are certain to spark a fierce debate.
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, wants to introduce a by-law which would make it illegal to be caught with your cap on the ground in the heart of the city.
He argues that traders are losing business from beggars camping outside their shops as shoppers decide to give them a wide berth. He also points to the impact of tourism and the image of Edinburgh which this projects.
But is banning begging actually the answer?
Apart from whether the police would be willing to enforce such a by-law, would this simply move the problem to streets around the city centre without tackling any of the issues?
No-one should be in a position where they have to beg on Edinburgh’s streets and genuine cases should have access to support services to help them out of their situation.
The issue is more complicated where there is a suggestion of organised gangs, and here the police do have a role to intervene if they can find the evidence, especially of aggressive begging.
However, this is not a new problem, nor is it unique to Edinburgh. Indeed, the majority of tourists who visit Edinburgh will be well used to the sight in their home countries.
The city council points out that the number of complaints about begging remains low, and, as you would expect, homelessness charities are not supportive of calls for a by-law. A measure such as this is also unlikely to gain the support of the Scottish Government.
Whether this leads to new legislation or not, however, the bid by Essential Edinburgh does at least serve to open an important debate. It brings to the fore an issue which many would perhaps prefer to ignore.
Chuck’s lawn road
Congratulations to Chuck Hamilton on reaching his milestone 100th birthday – although to those who know him it was never really in doubt.
After all, this is a man who enjoyed a working life spanning an incredible 83 years, only finally giving up his last position as a greenkeeper at the age of 96.
He keeps fit and still regularly indulges his passion for bowls, if no longer competitively despite pleas from his local club.
His 72-year marriage to Margaret is as strong as ever, and they joke the secret is to argue every day.
Many happy returns Chuck – and good luck for the many more bowls seasons to come.