THE head of Scotland’s licensed trade has poured water on the idea of lifting Glasgow’s outdoor drinking ban, saying it would encourage the “Buckfast brigade."

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to temporarily ease restrictions during lockdown while pubs remain closed.

Meanwhile, an online poll involving almost 400 Glasgow Times readers found 55% would support a permanent lifting of the ban. 

However, Stephen Montgomery, President of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) believes a relaxation of the by-law would discourage tourists from visiting Scotland’s largest city.

READ MORE: Drinkers may have to give name and contact details when pubs re-open in Scotland 

Glasgow led the way in introducing the by-law – which carries a fine of up to £500 – in 1996, broadly to give police another tool for managing anti-social behaviour. It was replicated by most other Scottish local authorities with the exception of Edinburgh, which is now itself considering a ban.

It is reviewed every 10 years in Glasgow and councillors voted last year to keep it in place with the backing of Police Scotland.

Lockdown has thrown the issue back into the spotlight as a number of pubs have been offering ‘takeaway’ drinks, which they are permitted to do if lids are provided.

However, there is concern it is encouraging people to drink in the city’s parks. There were a number of arrests in Kelvingrove Park at the weekend, that included assaults and vandalism, while there were issues with crowds gathering to drink outside pubs in Finnieston.

Figures show Glasgow has the highest number of arrests for breaching the law. In one month last year, from February 23 to March 22, 58 people were arrested, compared with 33 in Lanarkshire and 3 in Argyll and West Dunbartonshire.

Mr Montgomery said the SLTA does not support any relaxation of the ban.

He said: “It becomes uncontrolled. If people are starting to drink in streets near pubs, then the publicans could get the blame.

“We have this issue constantly outside nightclubs.

“I would love to be able to sit in Glasgow Green with my partner with a picnic and have a glass of wine. But you can’t have one rule for one and one for another because you will get the Buckfast brigade and lager louts.

“I don’t think anywhere can handle it in all honestly. In Edinburgh, it’s perhaps because it’s the capital city and for tourism purposes.

“When you go on holiday you don’t see people walking the streets and drinking, it’s more civilised. If we want to encourage people to Scotland we need to ensure we are promoting the right culture.”

READ MORE: Half a dozen people arrested after police swoop on Kelvingrove Park party 

In order to change the law in Glasgow a full council meeting has to agree, which prompts a referral to Scottish Ministers. If approved, the issue is then sent back to the council and has to be then ratified by a further full council meeting. 

Dr Nick McKerrell, a law lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, says the bylaw is still primarily used as a way to manage anti-social behaviour.

He said: “If you have the young team drinking a carry-out in the park then the police have an easy way into that whereas people having a drink with a barbecues, rarely is it enforced.

“That in itself is unfair because if you are with a particular group, you are more likely to be picked on, which is probably the case with this law.”

Dr Linda de Caestecker,  Director of Public Health for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said she would not support a removal of the ban. 

She said: “As we respond to Covid-19, we can’t lose sight of other public health challenges we face and this includes alcohol-related harm. People can still enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family without consuming alcohol.”