Beggars having major impact on city centre shopping says business leader

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One of Scotland’s most senior business figures has urged members of the public stop giving money to beggars and warned that the problem is harming the economy.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said begging and rough sleeping are a “disincentive for spending activity” in Scotland’s biggest city, with retailers worst affected.

The former senior commercial director of Scottish Enterprise said that if the public gave money to “legitimate charities” and sellers of the Big Issue magazine, it would “remove the incentive” for people to stay on the streets.

However, Liz McAreavey, his counterpart at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said it was imperative businesses “work alongside” public bodies and third sector agencies .

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One of Scotland’s most senior business figures has urged members of the public stop giving money to beggars and warned that the problem is harming the economy.

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said begging and rough sleeping are a “disincentive for spending activity” in Scotland’s biggest city, with retailers worst affected.

The former senior commercial director of Scottish Enterprise said that if the public gave money to “legitimate charities” and sellers of the Big Issue magazine, it would “remove the incentive” for people to stay on the streets.

However, Liz McAreavey, his counterpart at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said it was imperative businesses “work alongside” public bodies and third sector agencies .

A report by Community Safety Glasgow (CSG), a partnership between Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland, found that that there were more than 800 recorded cases of begging in the city centre over the past year.

Only last month, a survey of business owners in Glasgow by CSG found that over a third (36%) said they were affected significantly by begging, with a quarter of firms adding that customers complained about it on a weekly basis.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Patrick said the inner-city economy was being adversely affected.

He said: “There is no doubt that begging and rough sleeping have become markedly more visible in the past few months.

“The clear message coming back from our members is that begging is a disincentive for spending activity and investment in the city centre. Begging is not something that the business community or the general public appreciate. They are not comfortable with it.”

But Ms McAreavey told The Scotsman a multi-agency response was required from across the public and private sector.

She said: “There is no doubt that begging is a problem in Edinburgh and throughout the country, for business and for our wider society. Therefore the best way to tackle it is to focus on and address wider issues around education, poverty and education in Scotland.

“Developing an inclusive and more equal society where young people have the education and training to access future jobs is vital. We must also support business growth and job creation, working towards reducing poverty levels ... business must work alongside public and third sector to have the best and most powerful impact.”