A COUNCILLOR has come up with a radical solution to deal with gangs of anti-social youths causing trouble in large open-air gatherings.
Chris McEleny wants to spark a debate about 16 and 17-year-olds being allowed to enjoy low alcohol in a 'controlled' setting.
He says there should be a rethink on the attitude to alcohol and that the authorities should look to adopt a European model.
Councillor McEleny raised the issue at a meeting of the local police and fire scrutiny sub-committee which discussed the problem of large groups of youths congregating at trouble 'hotspots' across the district such as Pladda Fields in Port Glasgow, Inverkip beach and Coves Reservoir in Gourock.
Mr McEleny believes that the current offering of activities and youth clubs does not capture the attention of all young people.
He said: "Looking at the current situation, there's no progress and we're going through a particular cycle. It's the summer holidays and we're in the exact same position. There will be reactive measures every single weekend and most nights to a group of 100 young people being up in this area, 50 or so in that and so on. "
He says that as a council it's maybe the right time to look are what it offers young people.
He said: "Not all 15/16 and 17-year-olds want to play the play station, it's clear they want to socialise with all their friends that seems to be in huge groups. "Youth zones that you can play games are great for younger kids but it's clear that they don't interest the larger groups that people have an issue with.
"The problem is, and particularly in Gourock as an example, when they are moved on and dispersed and they came down the likes of Reservoir Road, Tower Hill and Royal Street that's when bins get knocked over, anti social behaviour is evident and that seems to be where the issues are.
"People are upset by large amounts of young people but it is only a slight minority who are causing trouble the majority just want to be there.
"Perhaps we need to look at other models and look at a bridge between young teenagers and licensed premises.
"There's a concern that lots of young people are drinking in these big crowds and it's not known how much they are consuming.
"Whereas in a controlled environment this could be monitored.
"I think there should be a conversation in the coming months about the culture in Scotland and how we can look to other European countries who do seem to be far more liberal yet much more responsible.
"I think we as a country we need to look at our licensing laws, as soon as someone turns 18 there are no restrictions on what they can buy, they can buy strong beer, 80 percent proof whisky. Personally I feel there should be a system in place whereby at a certain age low alcohol beers and wines should be made available in a controlled environment, with access to stronger spirits not being so easy."
The SNP local leader says young people need to be educated on how to drink responsibly.
The councillor says there was a project in Blackpool in the 1990s where 16 and 17-years could meet up and have low-alcohol beers under supervision and believes a similar model is worth exploring.
He said: "It could be a possible solution as it would be easier to create a controlled environment and I would imagine that be easier to police than young people being spread all over Inverclyde in environments that aren't safe. Maybe something like that would be more attractive and because it is low percentage the danger to health is reduced compared to what I hear young people are drinking at the moment. It could also provide a platform for people to learn how to behave around alcohol."