Steve Cardownie: Licensing board must perform balancing act

At it's meeting yesterday The Edinburgh Licensing Board was presented with a report from Police Scotland for the period of 1 April, 20016 to 31 March, 2017.

Tuesday, 26th September 2017, 7:00 am
A survey has found that 66 per cent of visitors would visit a pub during their stay in the Capital. Picture: Getty

Signed by the Chief Constable, it outlines what activity has been undertake in the last 12 months in Edinburgh and provides an opportunity to outline how the police services will be delivered in relation to alcohol provision over the coming year.

The foreword also makes it clear that the police force will continue to work at local and national level to ensure that communities are safe.

The Edinburgh Division of Police Scotland covers a geographical area from Leith in the north to the Pentlands in the south, with a resident population of approximately half a million. During the summer months, when Edinburgh is awash with festival visitors, the population is said to double. Add to the mix visitors to our numerous events throughout the year including our Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations and it is obvious that the police have their work cut out.

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Hibs player Danny Swanson dedicated his goal last Tuesday to the memory of his friend Shaun Woodburn

The report details that last year there were 16,704 licensed premises in Scotland, with Edinburgh holding the highest number followed by Glasgow. A total of 2000 licensed premises operated in the city comprising of 1426 “on sales” and 574 “off sales,” an increase of 190 over the last five years.

A breakdown of “prominent” licensed premises shows that there are 49 nightclub venues, five adult entertainment, 458 public houses, 593 off sales, 579 restaurants and 168 hotels.

Edinburgh’s night time economy is an important part of what makes the city successful. According to the Night Time Industries Association, taking the UK as a whole, it contributes approximately £66 billion and employs 1.3 million people in the hospitality and entertainment sector which includes pubs, music venues, restaurants, night clubs and festive outlets as well as late-night shops and fast food establishments.

An Edinburgh visitors survey found that 20 per cent of visitors said the city’s nightlife, especially the pubs, was one of the reasons that they came to Edinburgh and 66 per cent of visitors would visit a pub during their stay.

Hibs player Danny Swanson dedicated his goal last Tuesday to the memory of his friend Shaun Woodburn

According to the city council report “Edinburgh by Numbers 2017” published earlier this month there were 2.47 million domestic visitors to the city in 2015 with a further 1.54 million coming from overseas. The number of accommodation nights totalled 7.41 million for domestic visitors and 6.94 million for overseas with the average spend per day of £106.03 and £97.36 respectively. The city hosts more overseas visitors per year than any other city in the UK outside of London

Whilst it is accepted that Edinburgh attracts visitors for a whole variety of reasons there is no denying the importance of the night time economy to the city. The city and it’s bustling nightlife is also appreciated by thousands of residents keen to socialise and enjoying themselves in the evening whether it be in a pub, restaurant, theatre, cinema or club.

This then is the environment in which Police Scotland operates and attempts to ensure the public’s safety. On the one hand the city relies on its nightlife for economic and social reasons and on the other it needs to be as crime free as possible

Police Scotland’s report states: “Our focus is to keep people safe and we seek to reduce to reduce the negative impact alcohol has on our communities. This is achieved through encouraging responsible sale and supply of alcohol in well run licensed premises, taking positive action to stop the irresponsible sale of alcohol to children and young persons and preventing the oversupply to individuals already intoxicated in licensed premises.”

Councillor Gavin Barrie, the economy convenor, agrees that the police have a difficult task and recognises that safety is of paramount importance.

He recently stated that 60 per cent of visitors to Scotland come through Edinburgh and it is therefore important that we have a day and night offering that is open and welcoming both in hours and attitudes.

The Edinburgh Licensing Board will develop and publish it’s licensing policy statement by October 2018, having listened to the various stakeholders in this issue.

The board will have to juggle with the complexities of alcohol licences in a city with Edinburgh’s well deserved reputation for the warm atmosphere it creates for visitors and residents alike with the need to ensure, along with Police Scotland, that their experience is not marred by elements intent on disruption, fuelled by too much alcohol.

Goal tribute won’t be the last for Shaun

One week ago today the Hibernian football player Danny Swanson dedicated his first ever Hibs goal to his close friend Shaun Woodburn, who tragically lost his life on New Year’s day after a violent incident.

Sean’s father Kevin told me that Danny’s gesture meant a great deal to him and that it was comforting to know that his son had not been forgotten. Shaun’s funeral had one of the biggest turnouts ever seen at Warriston, which was testimony to the love and affection and high regard which he evoked.

Shaun’s family agreed to donate his organs as was his wish and he saved the lives of a baby, a teenage girl and a man and woman in their fifties.

Shaun was awarded the honour of The Order of St John at a ceremony in the Royal Botanical Garden earlier this month with a medal which recognises and salutes organ donors throughout Scotland.

The family also planted a tree in his memory. It overlooks The Water of Leith on the route he and his sister took to school which was so very much part of his life.

Given what I knew of him and what his family and friends have told me I don’t think that we have seen the last of tributes to Shaun.

Lord Provost dresses to impress

At the recent Riding of the Marches in Edinburgh, where up to 280 horses and riders took to the streets of the city in a historic event which dates back to the 16th century, it would appear that the Lord Provost, Frank Ross was taking no chances regarding the dress code.

After seeing his colleague Adam McVey come under fire for his lack of sartorial eloquence (in other words, “nae tie”) he opted to take a leaf out of his predecessor’s book and adorned the ceremonial robes.

Nae ties, sorry, flies on him!