YOUNG people in Argyll and Bute need more places to gather socially outside of school hours, a key council committee has heard.

Councillor Graham Hardie (Liberal Democrat, Helensburgh Central) raised the subject of young people gathering outdoors in towns and villages across the area during a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council's community services committee.

A report by officers in advance of the meeting on Thursday said: “Youth engagement officers are now providing a policing presence across Argyll.

"They have been making a positive impact, delivering vital personal safety, anti-violence and other key presentations to our children and young people as part of the curriculum.”

Councillor Hardie asked: “You talk about youth engagement, but if you drive through any town or village in Argyll and Bute between 6pm and 7pm, there are youths congregating at train stations or outside shops.

“Whether they are causing any trouble is debatable, but you wonder why they are there. How are you going to effect youth engagement in a positive way?”

Chief Superintendent Lynn Ratcliff said: “As you rightly allude, it is not an offence for young people to congregate, but we do appreciate some people can find it intimidating, even with no malevolent intent.

“In conjunction with local partners, we run youth football and are involved with youth clubs and drama groups, to encourage young people to get involved in activities.

“I would say that in most cases it is nothing more than socialising and congregating, but it is a pretty broad spectrum of activities that police get involved in with partners.”

Margaret Anderson, a church representative on the committee, said: “We have to be very careful with language. Most young people in the world are really well behaved and a credit to their communities and families.

“They also just look to hang about. We did when we were that age. Football clubs and drama groups are great, but not every child wants to do that; they just want to be with their pals and talking.

“Maybe we need to think about providing more places where they can go and have a coffee or a soft drink.

"I know there are some people that are not the way we want them to be, but the vast majority are great, and we just have to be cautious.”

Chief Supt Ratcliff responded: “The vast majority are doing it simply to socialise, but I do understand that some people find it off-putting. We are not in the business of criminalising young people.”