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Community / Byelaw comes up for discussion at Lerwick’s community council

THE TOPIC of Lerwick’s alcohol byelaw came up for discussion at a meeting of the town’s community council on Monday night – with some support shown for a revised model which would see an offence only taking place if someone failed to stop drinking in public when asked to do so by the police.

One suggestion was even thrown up that the byelaw should extend across the whole of Shetland to remove any ambiguity.

Lerwick Community Council (LCC) was discussing the byelaw as part of a consultation held recently by Shetland Islands Council.

The current byelaw prohibits the consumption of alcohol in Lerwick in public places, unless in a licensed premises. There are exception periods, such as Hogmanay or Lerwick Up Helly Aa.

The byelaw came into force in 2007 but last year councillors agreed to undertake a review of the scheme.

One message which appeared to come from Monday’s LCC meeting was that it seemed there seemed to be some confusion over the boundaries of the Lerwick byelaw area, while there was a suggestion there could be better signage.

Photo: Shetland News

SIC councillor Stephen Leask said for example that he saw a tourist on the street recently with a can of lager in his hand and assumed the man did not know drinking alcohol in a public space was out of bounds.

Some discussion points included whether a byelaw is actually needed if the police can enforce other measures – with chairman Jim Anderson saying he recently saw officers take drink off some youths near his house.

But community councillor Karen Fraser felt the byelaw gave the police another way of tackling antisocial behaviour.

She said it is “not the be all and end all, but it can be a useful tool”.

Fraser also said it can stop adults drinking in front of children.

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“So, it can affect some better behaviour you would hope among adults, and let’s face it a lot of Shetland adults don’t handle their alcohol very well,” she said.

One alternative potential byelaw scene which did get some support from members was the so-called ‘Edinburgh model’.

Under this model it would only be a breach if the person consumed alcohol in public and did not stop drinking when required to by the police.

Meanwhile Anderson also questioned if the byelaw should be extended to the whole of Shetland as it would “remove ambiguity” and be easier for the police to enforce.

Leask then asked if that would mean you “can’t have a can of lager on the peat hill”.

After the discussion ended, Anderson suggested there may be “more worthy causes for our public pound” than the consultation.

He also noted that the byelaw does not take into account illegal drug use.

Lerwick Community Council was only discussing the consultation questions, with the final decisions sitting with the SIC.

The public consultation has now closed.

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