A FORMER Scotland rugby international has been accused of producing an “outrageous” poster in response to a new one-stop shop for homeless people in Edinburgh.

Norrie Rowan, who was capped 13 times for his country, is under fire for targeting a Labour councillor who chairs the board behind the planned service.

Rowan’s poster, which he says he has distributed in local shops, reads: “If you want a junkie for a neighbour vote Labour.”

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Ewan Aitken, the chief executive of Cyrenians, a charity that helps tackle homelessness, said: “These posters are an outrageous abuse of fellow citizens. Stigmatising people in tough realities does nothing to build a just and inclusive city for everyone.

“If the people putting up these posters were having a tough time in life would they prefer compassion or abuse? That is the question they should ask themselves before making such divisive choices”.


Image: the poster produced by Rowan

The publicly-funded Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, which makes decisions on health and social care, approved plans to set up a health centre to provide homeless people with access to better services.

Sited on of the former Panmure St Ann’s school in the city’s Old Town, it is expected to be completed by 2020 and is supported by NHS Lothian, Edinburgh City Council and third sector partners.

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The average age of death for people experiencing rough sleeping is 43 compared to 77 for the general population.

People rough sleeping are 17 times more likely to be violently attacked, and nine times more likely to complete suicide.

Labour councillor Ricky Henderson, chair of the IJB, welcomed the proposals last year.

He said: “The project seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable, disenfranchised and disengaged citizens, who often exhibit a range of profound and complex needs and who need high levels of support.”

However, the debate has turned ugly after an intervention by Rowan, who was a prop forward for Scotland.

Rowan is a landlord who lives close to the building that will be used for the centre. His poster, which features a picture of Henderson and the “junkie” insult, also states: “Bringing 1,100 junkies to a street near you!!”

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Rowan told the Herald on Sunday: “I’m against the principle of it and the location. You cannot have hundreds of people coming to one place like this. And putting it in the middle of a tourist spot is madness.”

“It’s going to be like the Tenderloin in San Francisco.”

Put to him that “junkie” is a pejorative word, he said: “They have drug addiction problems. That to me is a junkie.”

Henderson said: “I wouldn’t dignify what he has done with a response.”