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Will Aberdeen’s beach revamp give youths ‘something to do’ after shock reports of Union Square chaos?

Concerns have been raised about an epidemic of anti-social behaviour in the city centre.

Plans for a new park either side of the Beach Boulevard include a pump track and playpark. Image: Aberdeen City Council
Could improvements at the beach cut down on anti-social behaviour in Aberdeen city centre? Image: Aberdeen City Council

City centre bans, confiscating free bus passes and even reinstating mandatory military service have been touted as ways of clamping down on anti-social youths blighting Aberdeen.

The persistent problem appears to be reaching crisis point, particularly at Union Square, with a despairing employee lifting the lid on the “hell” it has become.

The anonymous worker claims teens are gathering to drink, take drugs and have underage sex in the frequently vandalised disabled toilets near the bus station.

Bosses say they are doing what they can to get the problem under control.

And the issue has sparked an outpouring of opinion from our readers – with many suggesting tough measures are needed.

But could the answer be as simple as just offering restless teenagers something to do?

Aberdeen City Council is hopeful that its multi-million-pound plans to enhance the city centre and the beach will soon offer youngsters somewhere new to meet up – free of charge, and free of trouble.

The Evening Express front page on Saturday, August 5. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

Are free buses to blame?

Commenting on our recent expose, one reader posted on the Evening Express Facebook page about his own experiences as a bus driver.

He said that anti-social behaviour on the buses and around the Aberdeen station had “risen massively” since the SNP made bus travel free for people under the age of 22.

Much of the trouble centres around the bus station, where youths can travel to Union Square for free. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

The driver added: “The bus passes are a good thing for those who use it correctly but so so many are abusing it.”

John Widden said: “Those who persist with anti social behaviour should have their bus passes confiscated.”

A Young Scot National Entitlement Card being used for free under 22s bus travel.
A Young Scot National Entitlement Card being used for free under 22s bus travel.

‘Why are older people quick to condemn?’

Mr Widden was echoing the words of senior police figures, who revealed youths from as far away as Tayside are taking advantage of free bus travel to visit Aberdeen and cause mayhem.

Chief Inspector David Paterson told a summit on the state of Union Street “there are some things conspiring against us a little bit, in terms of public safety”.

However, he remained positive about the new system on the whole.

Chief Superintendent Graeme Mackie said ebike concerns in Aberdeen city centre were dealt with when police come across them. Image: Police Scotland
Chief Superintendent Graeme Mackie is leading robust work against antisocial behaviour in the city centre. Image: Police Scotland

And Kara Newman defended it too.

On our Facebook page, she pointed out that free bus passes are how many youths “can afford to travel to school, work/work experience, and out of school activities”.

She added: “I really don’t understand why older folk are so quick to condemn and prevent mobility for a large number of children for the bad behaviour of a few.”

What measures could stop Union Square youths causing trouble?

Our exclusive article detailed a whistleblower’s misery at the hands of teens running riot across the busy mall.

They claimed rules preventing any physical contact left security guards powerless to combat any problems.

An anonymous worker has spoken out about antisocial behaviour at Union Square in Aberdeen.
An anonymous worker has spoken out about antisocial behaviour at Union Square in Aberdeen. Image: DC Thomson

Ian Whitelaw suggested that parents of repeat offenders should be fined if they can’t keep their children under control.

National Service was proffered by some as the solution…

The system was formed after the Second World War, meaning all able-bodied men aged 17-21 were conscripted to the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.

By the time it ended in 1963, more than two million had taken part.

Bryan Herbert was one of many readers who believes it should be brought back.

He says it would “install some discipline”.

Others say Union Square youths ‘just need something to do’

Others were more understanding, saying youngsters don’t have much else to do in Aberdeen.

Roslin Reid said teens can often resent being in places like youth clubs or libraries “where they are treated like kids”.

Kerry Uddin added: “We as adults should lead with respect and care. Invest in them. Listen to them. Things will change.”

And earlier this year, divisional commander Graeme Mackie said “creative solutions” were needed to keep youths from causing trouble in the heart of Aberdeen.

The senior police officer was commenting after video footage emerged on children fighting in Union Terrace Gardens:

Others called for free activities like pool, snooker and table tennis in the city centre.

Leanne Ferries blamed a “lack of affordable activities” on youths causing chaos in Union Square, and elsewhere.

She said: “This is not a new problem.

“Brains still developing and boredom coupled with lack of affordable activities and a cut in youth services. What do you expect?”

So what is the council doing to give disgruntled teens something to do?

Aberdeen City Council is hoping that some major changes to the city centre and beach will make a big difference.

The authority said children and young people are “at the forefront of everything we do”, including the regeneration of the seafront.

A viewing platform on Broad Hill is among the beach changes. Image: Aberdeen City Council Date

Eager to gather the thoughts of pupils, a delegation addressed the chamber about their thoughts on the city centre in December.

Many reflected on the dearth of activities, with one teen saying she “wished the Christmas Village was open all year round” because it gave her and her pals a place to socialise.

Aberdeen Christmas Village
The youngster wished it could be Christmas every day, and also called for a place where she could “chill, play X-Box and not have to worry about being too loud and being told to leave by adults”. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

A spokesman told us that youngsters had been “greatly involved in the design of the features to be included at the beach park”.

Aberdeen Beach will be ‘focal point’ for youngsters

He added: “This means the facilities will reflect the activities they most enjoy, free of charge, in a fantastic seaside location.

“Once completed, the beach park will hugely enhance our offer of free activities to children and young people, giving them a focal point for play.”

The final elements of the UTG development are coming together. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Do you think the beach plans will make a difference? Let us know in our comments section below

Should marauding troublemakers take up chess instead?

Finally, Richard Colvin had a more wholesome suggestion for activities that could divert bored teens from causing trouble.

He said: “Go to the library and get a book. Play chess.

“When I was a teenager I sometimes spent hours in the library reading a book, or hours playing chess against my chess computer (early 1980s).”

A chessboard
If you’re bored, reach for a board… Image: Shutterstock

Mr Colvin’s gambit may not seem that unrealistic, with chess enjoying a recent boom in popularity following the success of a Netflix series about the pastime.

Colin Paterson also adopted a wistful tone as he reminisced about childhood outings on bicycles, making a “Tarzan swing” at The Gramps or playing football.

He said: “The PlayStation generation have no imagination.”

Read our reporter, and local dad, Calum Petrie’s view here.