IT IS one of the oldest traditions of Hogmanay – sharing a drink with strangers to toast the arrival of the new year.
But now revellers have been warned to be careful of taking alcoholic drinks from strangers over fears that they might be spiked.
Health chiefs and police have encouraged party-goers to wrap up warm and stay safe as 75,000 descend on central Edinburgh on Monday for the 20th anniversary bash of the city’s street party.
They said those attending should refrain from accepting drinks from strangers, as they are concerned about them being spiked with illegal drugs.
Visitors from around the world – tickets have been sold in 55 countries – will join locals for the annual street party, which includes a concert in Princes Street Gardens, a fireworks display from Edinburgh Castle, a ceilidh and live music from across five stages.
Organisers are wanting people attending the street party to stay safe and enjoy the entertainment, with bands including Simple Minds, The Maccabees and Admiral Fallow set to play.
Around 300 police officers and 500 stewards will patrol the event, which organisers say is expected to generate more than £27 million for Edinburgh’s economy, when spending and hotel stays are accounted for.
Specialist pyrotechnic teams were today loading some of the 17,000 fireworks which will be ignited every hour from 9am on Hogmanay.
Steve Cardownie, right, the city’s festival and events champion, who oversees the organisation of the Hogmanay Festival, said: “To make sure you and your friends have the best possible time at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party, take some simple steps to look after yourself: dress for the weather, bring your New Year cheer in plastic bottles, and use your common sense.
“Be mindful of who you are getting drinks from and if you have any doubts about what might be in the bottle just leave it.
“It’s also a good idea to heed the advice from police and stewards, who will be working to make sure everyone enjoys themselves safely, and to establish a pre-arranged meeting point in case you become separated from your group. Look after yourself and your friends and help us welcome 2013 in style.”
Forecasters from the Met Office yesterday told a press conference at the City Chambers that conditions on Monday night are expected to be better than in recent days.
Rain and wind is predicted during the day but expected to clear up towards late evening.
Graeme Forrester, public weather service advisor for the Met Office, said: “You can never be certain about the winter weather in Edinburgh.
“But we are getting reasonable consistent signals that by the time we get to Hogmanay evening there is a bit of a window with some clear weather.
“The Torchlight Procession on Sunday evening might be a bit damp, with some rain expected.
“On Hogmanay itself, temperatures around midnight will probably only be about 2-3C but with a breeze, although not a particular strong one.”
Free night buses, which have been funded by the drinks giant Diageo, will run until late.
Alcohol is allowed to be taken into the street party as long as it is in plastic bottles. Some bottles are available at the gates to decant alcohol into.
Dr David Farquharson, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “Although we’re not expecting a particularly cold Hogmanay, it is Edinburgh and it is winter, and if you’re drinking alcohol that will tend to lower your body temperature so please wrap up warm.
“Also wear sensible footwear, as although there may not be snow, the pavements may be slippy and we get a lot of people coming in to A&E with sprains.”