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Press & Journal, 11 October 2007


A ban on street begging in Aberdeen may succeed, but the city council must first prove why it is needed, said Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill on a walkabout in the city yesterday.

Mr MacAskill, who was in the city to visit an alcohol support project and speak to police officers about alcohol-related crime, spoke about the issue in response to a question by a local campaigner.

He told John Michie of the Aberdeen City Centre Association that the Scottish Government would consider the ban on begging "if the people of Aberdeen want it".

But he added legislation already exists to tackle aggressive begging in the form of breach of the peace orders.

The idea, first mooted three years ago, was dropped after the previous administration deemed powers sufficient.

He said: "People should not feel intimidated, but we do not want to move the problem from one place to another.

"Do I think it is necessary for the country as a whole? No, I do not think so..

"What we really need to do is address the underlying causes of homelessness and begging."

Mr MacAskill insisted the onus was on the council to prove the bylaw is needed.

During his visit, he visited Albyn House, which gives people who have had too much to drink an alternative to a night in a police cell.

And he is considering making pubs and clubs fund projects which are like it.

The idea was first raised by Mr MacAskill at the end of August, when he said he was considering charging pubs and clubs higher fees to make them pay for alcohol-related antisocial behaviour.

He said: "The approach at Albyn House is one I'm particularly interested in - this is exactly the kind of project I see the 'polluter pays' fees being used to fund."

Mr MacAskill also met a street pastor. Tomorrow at 10pm, around 15 pastors will take to the streets to help drunk, vulnerable and homeless people.