AS Edinburgh gets wound up and ready for its Hogmanay party, Superintendent Gavin Phillip of Lothian and Borders Police shines a spotlight on what goes on behind the scenes.
THIS year has once again seen many fantastic events take place within Edinburgh, from the Olympic and Paralympic torch relays and associated evening celebration events at the Castle and Meadowbank and the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the city to the involvement of both football teams in the cup final in May and the Culture Summit in August.
These events have seen many thousands of visitors mingling with those who work or reside in the city, enjoying the spectacle that they bring.
While I consider myself extremely fortunate as operational commander for the city centre to have been involved in the planning and policing of all of those events, the one I look forward to above all the others is due to take place tonight.
Despite all the many other events, the Hogmanay street party retains a unique status for me. As in previous years, I will be on the ground responsible for officers who will police the central section of the street party. This includes the bottom of The Mound, where thousands of people gather as midnight approaches to celebrate the beginning of a new year by watching a magnificent firework display exploding high above Edinburgh Castle.
There can be few more iconic destinations, and the photographs taken as the start of 2013 is celebrated will be beamed across the world in an instant.
To be on duty as part of this spectacular occasion is a privilege and one that I am happy to volunteer to be involved in. One of the main reasons for that is the opportunity to be part of an event which brings together visitors from all corners of the globe, of all different races and faiths mixed with people from throughout the United Kingdom, Scotland and Edinburgh itself.
I have always found that they come to the street party determined to enjoy and indeed add to the vibrant and exciting atmosphere generated by approximately 80,000 people being in a relatively small area.
The privilege of being part of this also comes with responsibilities. Over the last few months, I have attended numerous meetings with Unique Events, the City of Edinburgh Council, the Fire and Ambulance Service and G4S, as well as event planners within the police. Although like me, many have been involved in numerous street parties, we can never afford to be complacent. If we did, we could be risking the safety of those intending to come along tonight and that is something that collectively we will never do.
That is why we have once again tested our planning, contingency and evacuation plans through our attendance at an exercise, and why at two o’clock this afternoon we will meet as a group to have a final walk through the street party arena to make sure we are happy that all safety considerations have been taken into account.
When I brief the police officers at just before seven o’clock tonight, I will be stressing the need for safety to be utmost in their thoughts. I will also be encouraging them to adopt a friendly, welcoming and helpful approach to all members of the public they come into contact with tonight, and I am hoping only a relatively small number require to have their behaviour challenged.
My final message is to wish all street party-goers all the very best for 2013, to enjoy themselves tonight, to dress appropriately for the conditions and to drink sensibly.