MORE than 1000 protesters have signed petitions against a ban on Hogmanay revellers seeing in the New Year on Calton Hill.
Organisers of the world-famous celebrations have controversially blocked access to the popular fireworks vantage point amid health and safety fears.
But many claim the move is intended to herd people into the paid-for street party which has still not sold out. They have also said they should not be prevented from celebrating on “public land” despite the council insisting it is acting within its rights.
G4S stewards will be stationed at access points from 7pm until after midnight, though some revellers have vowed to flout the ban.
Steven O’Donnell, who started the ‘Open Calton Hill to the public on Hogmanay’ petition, said: “This is a popular venue used by the local community to view the excellent firework display. It is also free to use and a non-ticketed venue. The decision to close it to the public is a clear and deliberate act by the council to force people to pay for access to an official venue for which there are still thousands of tickets available, in order to boost ticket sales for profit.”
So far, his petition had attracted 361 supporters, while another petition launched three days ago, ‘Open Calton Hill for Hogmanay 2016’ , has 736 supporters
Toby Mottershead, author of the second petition, said: “Calton Hill is one of the most popular spots for us to watch the fireworks display and bring in the Bells without having to buy a ticket for the street party.”
North Bridge, Waterloo Place and Leith Street will be closed to traffic after 10pm to allow an uninterrupted view of the fireworks display.
The city council has stressed that there are a “number of vantage points” for the fireworks, including Inverleith Park and the Meadows.
Officials say it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee the safety of crowds on Calton Hill – because it falls within the “fireworks zone” and is “uneven underfoot” – though there have been no serious injuries in recent years.
Councillor Richard Lewis, city festivals and events champion, added: “The safety of the public is our key priority and as Calton Hill is used as a fireworks zone, it will be closed for six hours during the Hogmanay celebrations.”