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Community / Councillor voices concern over level of underage drinking after going out on the beat

Flea at Harrison Square. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

A SENIOR councillor is calling for immediate action to curb regular public disorder at weekends in Lerwick town centre.

Allison – Flea – Duncan said excessive underage drinking was one of the main reasons for anti-social behaviour around Harrison Square and the town’s lanes.

He has raised the issue of antisocial behaviour before and previously said he is not “youth bashing”.

But the veteran councillor said local householders and business owners had suffered enough disruptive levels of noise and were fed up mopping up vomit and pee from their front doors on weekend mornings.

Duncan said he spent the last two Saturday nights out on the streets of Lerwick to witness events for himself, and was planning to be out again this coming weekend to gather evidence.

He said as many as 50 people regularly congregate at Harrison Square on Friday and Saturday nights, drinking, socialising and listening to loud music.

The square, which recently received a facelift in the form of new benches and shelters, looks like “a battlefield” afterwards, the councillor claimed.

The chairman of the community safety and resilience board, which among other things oversees the work of the local police force, said the time for talking was up and action was urgently needed to make the situation bearable for people living in the area.

He said a proposal made by him earlier this summer to keep the public toilets next to Harrison Square open during weekend nights as well as finding alternative entertainment for young people had not been followed up.

The previous meeting of the community safety and resilience board also saw members highlight how some adults also tend to flock to square  – which features a late-opening chip shop and a nearby taxi rank – on nights out.

Speaking to Shetland News this week, Duncan said he had seen a young woman collapsing while heavily intoxicated and, together with the council’s antisocial behaviour coordinator Billy Mycock, had arranged for her to be taken to hospital.

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He said: “I am not against the youth, they must have their fling”, but he added that he was deeply concerned about the level of underage drinking he has witnessed.

“Where do the underage drinkers get their alcohol from? If not from licensed premises, then it must be their homes,” Duncan said.

The councillor’s comments come after a 30-year-old man was taken to hospital after he was hit by a glass bottle in the early hours of Sunday morning. A 15-year-old boy was arrested and later released.

Police have increased the frequency of regular patrols during weekend nights, however some local householders have complained about the long waiting times when calling the force on 101, as well as the lack of response and feedback from police.

But Duncan said people living in the area could not wait until the next meeting of the community safety board in November for things to move forward. A meeting scheduled for yesterday had been cancelled due to staff shortages and annual leave.

“This has gone on for far too long,” he said, “and it has to be resolved with some action.

“I want things to move forward. No-one deserves to be at the receiving end of what is going on. The patience of homeowners and businesses is exhausted.”

One practical suggestion he made to at least ease some of the unpleasant consequences of the night time drinking was to redeploy council workers from spending hours of jetwashing the town centre’s lanes and squares on weekend mornings to keeping open the nearby public toilets. 

“That way they don’t need to hose down the lanes,” he said.

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