Police seek East Lothian-wide ban on drinking in public

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A COUNTY-WIDE ban on drinking in public across East Lothian is being sought by Police Scotland.

Authorities want to see the county, which has 13 different by-laws covering different towns and villages, adopt just one by-law that entirely prohibits the public consumption of alcohol.

Horse Racing, Musselburgh Ladies Day. Grant Stott gets in on the action with left to right Lisa Wann, Lee Archibald and Julie Mitchell.

Horse Racing, Musselburgh Ladies Day. Grant Stott gets in on the action with left to right Lisa Wann, Lee Archibald and Julie Mitchell.

The widely varying by-laws, which were introduced in 2008, include one for the county’s biggest town Musselburgh, which bans public drinking unless those partaking are horse riders, council representatives and guests drinking outside The Ship Inn on Market Street from a “sipping cup” during the town’s annual ride-out parade.

In North Berwick, anyone can drink in public as long as they are doing it between 6am and 6pm while. There is a permanent ban in Haddington, Gullane and Prestonpans.

The outright ban also extends to Macmerry and Ormiston, but people are allowed to drink in Aberlady at the village’s playing fields during its summer gala between 1pm and 7pm. Neighbouring Longniddry, as well as Cockenzie and Port Seton, have no exemption for their gala days.

Anyone who wants to celebrate Hogmanay with alcohol on the streets can only do so in Tranent and Dunbar, West Barns and John Muir Country Park, where the ban is also lifted for the night.

Police Constable Heather Bowsher, from East Lothian’s licensing department, confirmed moves were afoot to create a single by-law to stop the confusion.

She said: “We are currently working with East Lothian Council as they seek to renew the local alcohol by-law provisions in the county.

“Over the last ten years almost every town has expanded, with new houses and areas for leisure which, as a result, means some facilities are outwith current prohibition zones.

“One by-law for the county would reduce confusion with those who live in the area and the many visitors East Lothian attracts throughout the year.

“Feedback from the local community has highlighted antisocial behaviour as one of the main concerns for local residents, with alcohol consumption a big factor in this.

“A ban on drinking in public places outside would also assist us in tackling this issue.”

The by-laws were due to expire in June last year, but have been extended to allow further consultation.

During an East Lothian licensing forum workshop last week, it was claimed Scottish ministers, who have to approve any change, had asked Police Scotland to “justify” making the ban county-wide, causing a delay.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Government denied claims the change was being “held up”, saying: “It is for the local authority to decide whether to propose a by-law that would prohibit drinking in public in the local authority area.”

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “We have been discussing with Police Scotland the possibility of extending the by-laws on drinking in public to cover the whole of East Lothian to make the legislation easier to enforce.”