Royal Mile charity collector slams influx of ‘beggars’

A VETERAN soldier who has collected hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity on the Royal Mile has hit out at an influx of Eastern European beggars.

Decorated Second World War hero Tom Gilzean, 92, who sits for three hours at a time at Castlehill with his collection tin, has seen an upsurge in the number of beggars targeting tourists on the Royal Mile.

Mr Gilzean, of Peffermill, said: “They are here for ten hours a day, and they stand right up against the wall of St Gile’s Cathedral, even on a Sunday.

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“They are making a fortune – you should see the crowds around them.

“They are just in it for themselves and I am out there raising money for charity. It makes my blood boil.

“The police are supposed to move them on every two hours but now that the Festival is over you hardly ever see a policeman on the Royal Mile.” Councillor Cammy Day, city community safety leader said: “The police and our community safety officers use existing powers when necessary to deal with any incidents of aggressive begging.”

In December 2010, the Evening News stepped in after council chiefs tried to ban Tom from his collection spot – eventually the council handed him a licence to continue his efforts.