Armed police patrol Edinburgh's Christmas market amid terror fears

These images show the 'rings of steel' protecting Scotland's Christmas markets as security is bolstered amid fears of Berlin-style copycat terror attacks.
Armed Police on patrol and concrete bollards  at Edinburgh Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens.Armed Police on patrol and concrete bollards  at Edinburgh Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens.
Armed Police on patrol and concrete bollards at Edinburgh Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens.

Armed police, large concrete barriers and stop and search checks are being carried out at festive markets up and down the UK as many opened to the public last week.

Heavy police presences could be seen in at the Edinburgh Christmas markets where festivities kicked-off at the weekend.

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Armed Police carrying large guns were seen on patrol and concrete bollards were in place at the Princes Street Gardens market, alongside festive shoppers.

Pedestrianised areas were blocked off to prevent vehicles driving into crowds - after an IS fanatic killed 12 when he ploughed a lorry through Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz last year.

And armed cops are also understood to be on patrol in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland is working with event organisers and partners across Scotland in the run up to the Christmas period to give advice and guidance on safety and security measures, taking into account any specific intelligence and the wider threat.

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“Our priority is the safety and security of all those attending or involved, and the public are encouraged to continue with their plans to attend or take part in events as normal.

“The public may see additional protective security measures.

“There could also be increased security checks at some events and venues so we advise the public to arrive in plenty of time to allow for this.

“The current threat level across the UK from international terrorism remains at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely and we reiterate our long-standing advice to remain vigilant and alert.

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“As ever we would urge the public to get in touch to report anything suspicious by calling the confidential anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321 or in an emergency by calling 999.”

And there were similar scenes in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Bath with armed cops patrolling the perimeters of festive attractions.

Plain clothed officers will also mingle amongst the crowds of revellers in a bid to keep the nation safe from further terror attacks.

The moves come after the Local Government Association warned councils to be vigilant this year with the terror threat level to the UK currently at “severe”.

This means that an attack “is highly likely”.

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London has been hit twice in the past 12 months by terror attacks involving vehicles on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

In response to those atrocities barriers separating traffic from pedestrians were erected on three of the capital’s bridges.

Similar measures are now be in place at major Christmas markets - including Manchester, Birmingham and London’s Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said it was “not ideal” to have armed officers on the streets but insisted: “Security has to come first.”

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He said: “It’s not ideal to see armed police at such an event, but security has to come first.

“Police Scotland have a made a judgement call in light of what happened last year.

“These are highly-skilled and highly-trained officers.

“Most people don’t mind seeing such a presence so long as it’s subtle and not intrusive.”

Superintendent Mark Rennie, speaking on behalf of Police Scotland, said: “We are committed to ensuring the safety of all of those who live within Edinburgh, or who come to visit during the Christmas seasonal period.

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“All security measures in place for the festive attractions have been agreed and implemented following detailed discussion between Police Scotland, event organisers and the City of Edinburgh Council.

“We will have an increased deployment of officers throughout the city centre as part of our festive policing campaign.

“We will be engaging with the public to offer a range of crime prevention and personal safety advice while at the same time providing a visible presence to deter crime and deal with any issues that arise.

“Edinburgh remains a safe place to live, work and visit but it is important that the public remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity or concerns they may have so we can investigate and respond appropriately.”

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Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Hogmanay is one of the busiest nights of the year in Edinburgh and our Christmas celebrations are some of the very best in the world.

“Appropriate measures have of course been put in place this winter, as they are every year, to ensure the security of our popular winter festival destinations.

“They are simply a public safety precaution in the current climate and to reassure the public that we are putting their safety first.”

A spokesperson for Underbelly, as the organisers of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, said: “The safety and security of staff and visitors to Edinburgh’s Christmas is our number one priority, and we’ve been working with the City of Edinburgh Council, Police Scotland and other agencies and advisers to put in place robust and appropriate security measures.”