Burntisland is spearheading a campaign to deter people from buying alcohol for youngsters under 18.
You’re Asking For It, which will be launched today (Friday) aims to reduce the number of proxy purchases of alcohol – where adults buy alcohol to pass on to someone they know is underage – thereby reducing crime and antisocial behaviour, making communities safer and protecting under 18s from the harm associated with alcohol.
The initiative was developed by the Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership (SAIP) and Scottish Government with Police Scotland and representatives from North Lanarkshire Council.
The first successful pilot scheme ran in Motherwell and Wishaw in 2015, followed by Leith in 2016.
Last year, it was rolled out across North Lanarkshire where it is still having a positive impact.
Now, it has been brought to Burntisland by community police officer Liz James.
Like other parts of Fife, Burntisland experiences antisocial behaviour involving youths, especially in the summer months. The majority of the incidents involved youngsters under 18 drinking alcohol.
The town was identified as an ideal place to pilot the new campaign because of its size and the problems it has identified with underage drinking and antisocial behaviour in recent years.
The introduction of initiatives such as Challenge 25 has made it more difficult for those under the age of 18 to buy alcohol themselves however it has been identified by health professionals and police that there is still more work that needs to be done to combat the practice of proxy purchase.
In 2015 You’re Asking For It was set up in the west of Scotland to tackle this issue. It proved a great success at reducing the problems of adults buying drink for youngsters and it
On Friday Police Scotland, along with Fife Council, will launch a similar scheme in Burntisland.
The campaign will focus on educating members of the public that it is a criminal offence to buy or attempt to buy alcohol for a young person or to give alcohol to a young person.
And it also aims to make people under the age of 18 aware that to buy or attempt to buy alcohol is an offence.
Although its main aim is education, it also lets culprits know that, where necessary the relevant legislation will be enforced and any person found committing any of the offences will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal which could result in a three month prison sentence and/or a £5000 fine.
PC Liz James, one of the Burntisland Community police officers who has helped to bring the campaign to the town, told the Press: “As a community officer for Burntisland, it is important to me that any kind of antisocial behaviour issues are dealt with and that any solutions to them are long term and not just a quick fix.
“You’re Asking for It has worked extremely well in all of the other areas of Scotland where it has been utilised so there should be no reason, especially if the whole community pull together, that it can’t work in Burntisland.
“It will be closely monitored and if it is successful here then it is planned to roll it out to Kirkcaldy and other areas of Fife.
“Underage drinking is a problem in Burntisland, like in many areas, but it is more noticeable here because it is a small town, so groups congregating, drinking then getting involved in antisocial behaviour are more obvious here.
“I would urge anyone with concerns about this to report it to the police so we can add the areas to our patrol list.”
Liz explained that the five off sales premises in the town as well as local pubs had been informed about the campaign.
“They have all been very supportive of what we are trying to achieve and I know that they will be happy to challenge anyone they believe may be purchasing alcohol to pass on to those under 18.
“We are asking them to be vigilant as we know that there are groups in the town with older teenagers of around 18 or 19 who are going in to buy alcohol, and we want to stop this happening.”
Councillor Carol Lindsay, chairman of the Fife Licensing Board, said education was a key aim of the campaign. “Many adults don’t realise that they could face a hefty fine or even prison for buying alcohol for underage youngsters and this is one of the main aims of the campaign which the licensing board is fully behind.
“We have had test purchasing to identify shops selling to under age youngsters and Challenge 25, but this is specifically aimed at proxy buying and works in conjunction with the others to ultimately reduce underage drinking.”
Carole Anne Crossan, members pioneer at Burntisland Co-op, said the it was “100 per cent behind the campaign.”
“This is a great idea. The Co-op is very strict about alcohol sales and the more publicity there is around this the better.”
It also has the backing of local councillors Lesley Backhouse and Gordon Langlands who were both there to help launch it.
Cllr Backhouse said: “Youngsters have been meeting and drinking at various parts of Burntisland.
“There is a regular police presence, but they have to patrol other problem areas and can’t be here all the time.
“As well as being dangerous to their health, drinking too much alcohol can leave them in a vulnerable position, particularly if they become separated from their friends or get left behind on their own.”
Councillor Langlands added: “There is a problem with youngsters drinking and taking drugs in Burntisland.
“They send messages by Snapchat and congregate in groups and others come from Aberdour and other areas by train to meet up and party, which leads to antisocial behaviour.
“They are getting the alcohol from somewhere and hopefully this campaign will go some way towards resolving the drinking part of the problem.”
The campaign will run from today (Friday) until September.