Call to fine people for spitting in public

It is a city tradition to spit on the Heart of Midlothian. Picture: Ian Rutherford
It is a city tradition to spit on the Heart of Midlothian. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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An Edinburgh council leader has called for discussion on a ban on spitting in public, with the possibility of fines

The debate comes as the London borough of Enfield has started moves to create a by-law which would make spitting in the street without good reason an offence, with prosecution and fines of up to £5000. Now SNP leader Cllr Steve Cardownie is calling for a debate over whether similar measures should be considered here.

He said: “To me, it’s on a par with dog excrement, it’s just disgusting. I can understand if someone is ill, but you would hope they would spit into a hanky. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone just spitting in the street and there clearly are some people who’re not dissuaded by how antisocial it is. Perhaps a fine would convince them to refrain.

“I will raise the issue at the next SNP group meeting with a view to asking officials if such a move is necessary or appropriate here.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Aldridge, who spearheaded a campaign against spitting in public two decades ago, added: “In some circumstances I think it’s preferable to encourage good behaviour than penalise bad, but perhaps a fine would discourage people. It is disgusting.”

However, other councillors questioned the need for such a move, with SNP Councillor Mike Bridgman calling spitting “disgusting, but not a criminal offence” and Lib Dem Paul Eadie asking whether criminalisation was “a step too far”.

Tory group leader Councillor Jeremy Balfour added: “Clearly spitting is not very pleasant or nice, but the trouble with a law like this is – how do you enforce it?”

Superstar golfer Tiger Woods faced a barrage of criticism for “spitting round Muirfield” during the recent Open tournament, with many taking to social media to complain about his perceived lack of respect for the renowned course. Spitting within reason is traditional on the Royal Mile’s Heart of Midlothian mosaic.

Despite the backlash against Woods, spitting by sports stars is generally less frowned upon as many athletes, especially runners, claim it is necessary to clear out dirt which has accumulated in the mouth.

Midlothian-born Olympic athlete Freya Murray said: “Yes, to be honest, I do have to spit when I’m training or competing, but I try to be discreet. I certainly would never do it when I wasn’t running.” However, Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone, a former East of Scotland 1500m and 800m champion, who now also coaches athletics, said spitting was not something she regularly came across in her 30 years in sport, adding: “Perhaps the athletes I work with are just more considerate!”

Police Scotland confirmed that spitting in the street could already be deemed an offence.

A spokeswoman said officers work under current antisocial behaviour legislation and spitting could result in a fixed penalty notice and even a report to the procurator fiscal.”