Comment: Smart answers needed to tackle begging problem

Edinburgh has always been a city of haves and have-nots.

Wednesday, 7th June 2017, 8:19 am
The number of beggars in Edinburgh is on the increase
The number of beggars in Edinburgh is on the increase

Often the two sit jarringly close together. That’s certainly true when you pass beggars in the city centre alongside shops where it is easy - if you have the money and the inclination - to spend more than £2000 on a new coat.

The number of people begging on the streets of the Capital has undoubtedly risen over the last year or two. And some people certainly find their presence intimidating.

It would be wrong to try to sweep the problem out of sight. Simply trying to move beggars out of the city centre is not the answer. But neither is ignoring the issue.

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A more sophisticated solution is needed. One that sees rough sleepers’ charities and drug and alcohol agencies working together with the police and local businesses to get a grip on the causes of begging. It is also important to distinguish between aggressive and non-aggressive begging.

Begging is not illegal, but the police do have the powers to move on anyone who is causing a nuisance. As well as offering a helping hand, it is important that officers are on hand and ready to use those powers when necessary.

The plans outlined today by Essential Edinburgh look like an excellent start.