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Press & Journal, 24 January 2008

City bosses have launched a new bid to rid a street of beggars. Aberdeen City Council is writing to the Scottish Government to ask for a bylaw to ban homeless people asking for money on Union Street. The previous Scottish Executive rejected calls for new legislation, arguing that they could already be arrested for breach of the peace.

But now councillors want to appeal to the SNP administration to see if it can reverse the decision.

Councillor Neil Fletcher said: "We are not asking for a ban across the whole city, I do not think the government would agree to that.

"Union Street is the main thoroughfare and it is where most of the problems we have are.

"There is already a bylaw which means beggars outside train stations can be arrested and I have seen British Transport Police enforcing this.

"People in Aberdeen are very generous and are sadly being taken advantage of.

"The vast majority of beggars in the city do not have mental health problems, they just come here for the money to buy drugs."

On Tuesday the policy and strategy committee called for an end to "professional begging".

The city council is planning to reinstate begging boxes across the city centre.

Some of the boxes had to be taken down after they were broken into.

People are supposed to put money into the boxes instead of directly to people on the street, it then goes towards homeless charities.

They will be reinstalled, but will be put inside where they can be monitored more easily.

SNP-group deputy leader Councillor Jim Kiddie believes the council should be more proactive in helping people get off the streets. He said he recognised the same people begging on Union Street time and again.