IN a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour and underage drinking, Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is being urged to consider introducing a ban on outdoor alcohol consumption.

The Borders is the only council area in Scotland without rules prohibiting outdoor drinking in public places.

Concerns over a rise in alcohol-related crimes have sparked calls for the local authority to use its powers to introduce byelaws.

Both the police and health board are said to be “strongly” in favour of a ban, according to one Tweeddale councillor.

Before the coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, the council held a consultation seeking the views of communities throughout the Borders to discover if drinking alcohol in public places is causing a problem.

There is said to be a division of opinion across the region. Some believe a ban would reduce criminal acts of anti-social behaviour, while others feel law-abiding citizens enjoying a drink outdoors responsibly would be unfairly penalised.

The topic was raised at Peebles Community Council last month by local resident Rosie Barley, who said: “Regarding the issue that we’ve got around anti-social behaviour within the community and underage drinking, I noticed that a lot of councils, I believe 27 councils in Scotland, have actually made it illegal for people to drink outside.

"I just wondered why that wasn’t an option in the Scottish Borders, bearing in mind the issues that we currently have and the problems that the police seem to have in dealing with it, and the underlying crime that goes along with it.”

The meeting heard that a report from the consultation – and a recommendation from officers – is due to come before the full council.

SBC leader Shona Haslam, a Conservative member for Tweeddale East, said: “The last time that this came up, which was in 2014, some communities were in favour and some communities were against.

"The question is, do we want to criminalise everybody for the actions of a few? But that’s an issue for the consultation.”

Ms Barley said alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have increased by 20 per cent in the last year. She added: “It’s actually something that becomes more urgent around looking at our young people and abuse of alcohol.”

Ms Barley remarked that Peebles is difficult to police and said there are so many places for young people to hide and evade “a very minimal police force”.

“I know that in other council areas where people are buying alcohol they're reminded about safe usage in line with the issues that it’s having at the moment in Scotland,” said Ms Barley.

Supporting the call for a ban, Tweeddale East councillor Robin Tatler, an independent representative, said: “It’s fair to say there is a division of opinion across the local authority in terms of whether we should or shouldn’t.

"I’m absolutely in favour of enforcing a non-drinking outside ban in Peebles, and I’m supported by both the police and health board who came out very strongly in favour of this.”