Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Beggars belief

March 03 2010
Edinburgh hotelier thinks beggars are ruining the city‘s reputation

The General Manager of Edinburgh's posh Balmoral Hotel believes that beggars are ruining Edinburgh's reputation. Mr Artoli, who hails from Venice, has run the hotel since 2007, and has been lobbying the city council to take a harder line on the issue.

Mr Artoli said, "You do not have this in London, Paris, Brussels, Florence or Frankfurt. I have been writing to anyone I know in the city because I think this is quite unacceptable. I have worked in 15 places across Europe and I have never come across a city with such tolerance of beggars."

The Scotsman newspaper ran the story in January, in which Mr Artoli said he found it difficult to explain to visitors from overseas that it was normal to see people begging on the streets. He also said that beggars have had to be moved on because they blocked fire escapes at his hotel: "People who beg elsewhere in Europe tend to be gypsies, and American tourists come to associate beggars with thieves - and lax security. It is not comfortable to see people sitting begging on the pavement.

"I think this country has a good system of health and social care and I do not know how much longer we can justify seeing people begging in the streets. The council really needs to understand the impact it has on visitors."

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce deputy chief executive, Graham Brise, agreed that street begging was an issue for businesses in the city centre. But he also said, "Edinburgh is a tolerant city and generous city and its businesses want to find ways to help the homeless."

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said "The UK is the fifth richest country in the world and yet there are still people who feel they have no choice but to take to the streets to beg. Most people do not beg because it's an easy option. For many they may beg because they are unable to access help."

In 2007 the city of Aberdeen planned to introduce a by-law to ban begging - the first city in Scotland to do so - which was rejected by the Scottish Government. In order to help reduce the number of beggars, ‘begging boxes' were set up in shopping centres in Aberdeen. The begging boxes, which cost £180 each, amassed a grand total of £748. Donations went to recognised homeless charities.

There are no laws against begging in Scotland. Police spokesmen in Central Scotland, Strathclyde and Grampian, all state police would not move someone on who was just begging on the street. If passers-by complained that they were being aggressive or intimidating, the police would deal with it as a breach of peace. They would, however, prevent children under the age of 16 from begging, as this is a crime in Scotland.

A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh said, "Police and Community Safety Officers use existing powers as and when necessary to deal with aggressive begging, and we're not aware of any increase in complaints about this issue."