War memorial Christmas lights spark fury

John Anderson and the decorations on the Royal Mile, which he says are in place far too early

John Anderson and the decorations on the Royal Mile, which he says are in place far too early

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The Royal British Legion has hit out at the “thoughtless” city council for putting up Christmas decorations early – yards from where the Capital’s Remembrance Sunday service will be held.

The Inspiring Edinburgh festive trimmings have been hung from metal poles near the Stone of Remembrance on the Royal Mile – and their presence has already attracted complaints.

The First Minister, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Scotland’s Presiding Officer will all pay their respects by laying wreaths at the stone on November 13.

The council has insisted that the Christmas lights will not interfere with the ceremony and that the lights will not be turned on until the end of the month.

But Neil Griffiths, national spokesman for the Royal British Legion Scotland, said: “We are surprised there are Christmas decorations right over where the VIPs will be standing on Remembrance Sunday.

“There were Christmas decorations last year, but they weren’t so ostentatious.

“We’ve already had a number of complaints about the decorations and we did last year too.

“The decorations do seem to be inappropriate and obtrusive – I don’t think it’s a mark of disrespect, but I think it’s more thoughtless.”

John Anderson, 48, a former musician in the military who served in both Iraq conflicts, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, described the decision to put up the decorations ahead of the service as “disgraceful”.

He said: “I feel it’s an insult to the boys who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“There’s a lot of older soldiers who will be there on the Sunday and as the parade goes on, the decorations will be all you will see – it’s far too early for them to even be there.

“It’s a disgrace that someone has allowed this to happen.”

Mr Anderson, from Holyrood, started his 24-year career in the Queen’s Own Highlanders and finished as a Sergeant in the Highland Band of the Scottish Division.

He has played the French horn at 12 Remembrance Sunday parades and has attended every one since his retirement in 2005.

He said: “The decorations are on big metal poles on concrete bases – they are about 7ft tall.

“I know nothing will be done, the council will not take them down. We’re still seven weeks away from Christmas – the Remembrance service is a week away on Sunday.

“When the Queen lays her wreath at the Cenotaph you can be sure there will be no Christmas decorations.”

Bob Wright, a director of veteran’s charity the Mark Wright Project, said: “It’s disrespectful, especially if they are going to be right there staring you in the face.

“They could have held off until after Remembrance Sunday.”

A spokesman for the city council said: “The council recognises that the Remembrance Parade is a very important event in the calendar, as we remember and honour those who have given their lives for our country.

“We apologise if this has caused some concern. However, we are confident that the presence of the Christmas lights will not adversely impact the ceremony in any way.

“The council has several hundred decorations to install across Edinburgh.

“This typically takes around three weeks to complete and allows us to make any necessary adjustments prior to the lights being switched on.

“Managing the process in this way also helps to keep down the costs.

“The lights will not be turned on until November 24.”