Children are using a shopping centre in Aberdeen to drink alcohol, take drugs and have sex, an MSP has claimed.
North East Scotland MSP Douglas Lumsden urged the Scottish Government to address concerns about a potential wave of anti-social behaviour at Union Square.
During a parliamentary debate on Thursday, the Scottish Conservative politician said there had been a “shocking surge” in incidents that threatened workers’ safety and forcing shoppers out of the area.
Speaking at Holyrood, Lumsden referenced a case of a shopping trolley allegedly being thrown off the shopping centre’s multi-storey car park which he said nearly struck a woman below.
He referenced an anonymous worker who said teens were gathering to drink, take drugs and have underage sex in the frequently vandalised disabled toilets near the bus station.
Lumsden said: “This year the incidents of anti-social behaviour at Union Square, Aberdeen’s main city centre shopping centre, have surged with some truly shocking incidents being reported.
“The Press and Journal told the story of a whistle-blower worker who said ‘what’s happening is wrong. Union Square is the most hostile and dangerous place I have worked’.
“He went on to describe that the toilets have become ‘party rooms’ where kids as young as 12 lock themselves away to drink, roll joints and even have underage sex.
“He also told of a shopping trolley being thrown off the multi-story car park nearly striking a woman below.”
He said it was “worrying” that anti-social behaviour appeared to be “on the increase right across Scotland”.
He added: “I would call on the devolved government to urgently carry out a piece of work to understand if this behaviour is actually on the increase and to try and understand the reasons behind it.
“Citizens in Aberdeen have suggested that the pressure on police resources are to blame and the freeze on police recruitment will only make matters worse.
“Whatever the cause, the devolved government needs to act.
“This behaviour by groups of people are making places unsafe and threatening the viability of some businesses, driving people away from our city centres and are putting our shop workers into situations they should never have to deal with.
“I look forward to hearing what action the government will do.”
Victims and community safety minister Siobhian Brown condemned the “unacceptable behaviour of a minority within our society”.
“Everyone has the right to go about their business, their work and their home life in safety without any fear,” she said.
She added: “I would urge any affected businesses or individuals to contact the police who continue to focus solely on keeping our community safe from harm and investigating criminal activity.”
She said while anti-social behaviour issues are matters for police and local authorities the Scottish Government “will continue to look at what may be possible and advisable and keep this under review”.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We continue to proactively combat antisocial behaviour in Aberdeen City Centre.
“We remain firm in our zero-tolerance approach to this behaviour and have dealt with a number of incidents and crimes.
“Anyone found to be breaking the law have been charged and their personal circumstances reviewed in order to identify opportunities for further intervention.
“We continue to work closely with the Community Safety Partnership and other City Centre partners to explore innovative ways to tackle antisocial behaviour.”
A spokesperson for Union Square, said: “Antisocial behaviour is an ongoing issue across Aberdeen, and we are working together with city partners and stakeholders including the BID, local council and the police to help tackle this.
“We also work with an established and highly reputable security partner to bring first-class safety procedures to Union Square and have responded to increased needs when necessary.
“The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority and we will continue to be committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy.”
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