War hero 'distraught' after collection licence rejected

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A 90-YEAR-OLD war veteran who has raised more than £35,000 for charity has been told to stop – because he is breaking the rules. Tom Gilzean was in tears when he received an official letter from the council telling him he could face legal action if he continued to dress in his kilt and shake his collecting tin on the Royal Mile.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: Tom Gilzean has raised more than 35,000 for charity from collecting on the Royal Mile. Picture: JAYNE EMSLEY

Former soldier Mr Gilzean, of Peffermill, said he had been left "utterly distraught" after being told by the council that operating without a licence was a criminal offence.

He has received licences for his collections for the past three years, but they only cover him collecting for six days a year.

While the council said he could be granted a longer period if the licensing board approved, it confirmed that if he was operating without a licence he would be breaking the law.

Mr Gilzean admitted he had been collecting on the Royal Mile "every day the weather is fine" for the last five years.

He has vowed to defy the warning, insisting the charity work is all he lives for now.

"They can lock me up if they like because I don't know what I would do if I had to stop," he said. "They seem to be treating me like I'm some kind of beggar, but they might as well put me in my box if I can't do this. It's what I live for."

Mr Gilzean served in the Royal Engineers for 12 years as a sapper, fighting in Europe in the Second World War. He started collecting for charity five years ago after being contacted by a friend who wanted help raising funds for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.

Since then he has raised funds for five charities, collecting cash for Children in Need and wounded soldiers in Afghanistan amongst other causes.

He says over the last year he collected more than 35,000 in his tin, by standing at the top of the Royal Mile for three hours a day. That could all be about to come to an end, however, after a recent application for a six-month licence was refused.

His fundraising has been so successful that the Sick Kids Friends Foundation have written to him in appreciation of his "continuous support amounting to 5000 over two years" and described him as "our fantastic volunteer", adding "Tom is one in a million".

Major George Connelly, at the Personnel Recovery Centre at Gilmerton, wrote to Mr Gilzean last month, thanking him for his donation of 2000 to injured Scottish military personnel.

Close friend Gordon Scott, the owner of Gordon's Trattoria in the High Street, said Mr Gilzean had been "in tears" after receiving the letter.

"It's a scandal the way Tom's being treated," he said. "He should be getting a medal, the freedom of the city, not threatened with arrest."

The council said Mr Gilzean had been granted a Public Charitable Collection permit every year since 2008, covering six-day periods every year.He recently applied for a new permit from March 1 to October 31, 2011, but was refused.

A council spokeswoman said: "To ensure that the public are not overwhelmed by requests for charitable donations, the council controls the number of days and permits issued.

"Any advice provided in correspondence about the implications of carrying out a collection without a permit is simply that - precautionary advice."