Edinburgh MP praises police for stopping ‘drunk’ youths entering Meadows but residents voice public urination concerns as weather warms and Covid restrictions ease
An Edinburgh MP has praised the police for stopping drunk youths entering the Meadows - with alcohol consumption still banned in outdoor public places - and called for a “zero tolerance” to public urination and defecation in the park.
Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said last Saturday he counted 26 police officers at the park as one local inspector told him people were being taken home by police after being apprehended there. Mr Murray spoke during a virtual public meeting held on Friday to address recent antisocial behaviour and violence at the Meadows.
During the discussion, local residents highlighted concerns about a lack of consequences for people urinating and defecating in the Meadows - and in their gardens.
It is hoped portaloos will be brought in by the middle of next week and extra CCTV could be fitted to lampposts in addition to the council surveillance van already in place. Labour Edinburgh Southern candidate Daniel Johnson, chairing the meeting, said the option of opening public toilets beyond 8pm will also be explored.
Mr Murray thanked the police and Edinburgh City Council for their actions last weekend and said a local inspector indicated to him there would be a high police visibility at the Meadows for several weeks.
Mr Murray said: “Several young people coming in drunk were apprehended at the top of George Square and they (police) were taking people home too, many to Bonnyrigg and Dalkeith. The atmosphere at the Meadows last Saturday seemed a lot better.
“I counted 26 police officers and you had police on the street. We need to keep that up for the short term to send the message that people can not congregate and fight.
“The biggest issue we have got now is people using Meadow’s Lane as a toilet. A zero tolerance approach on that issue will send the message it’s not acceptable.
“The test of this will be when the sun shines and the heat comes on but I hope the message will already be sent out.”
‘Being drunk is no excuse’
Drinking alcohol in outdoor public places has been banned since mid January for parts of Scotland under tier four restrictions. Covid measures are expected to ease on April 26, with all of Scotland hopefully moving into level three where there is no such alcohol prohibition featured - but it remains unclear what will happen in the Meadows.
Pictures taken by the Edinburgh Evening News on Friday shows signs have been installed at the Meadows to reinforce the message that consuming alcohol there is illegal - but it is understood some of those have already been stolen.
During Friday’s meeting, a number of residents voiced their worries about how antisocial behaviour will be deterred and handled when the weather warms up in the coming weeks and the alcohol ban is lifted. One resident, Clare Hewitt, said: “There will be a lot more drinking on the Meadows, and therefore a lot more public urination.”
Several residents said they want to see tougher consequences for those publicly urinating or defecating. One, Brenda Wlliamson, said: “If we want a solution, is it not that they have to be punished for what they do?”
Morningside councillor Mandy Watt said she had received “many” emails from residents about people doing the toilet in private gardens, stairs and streets and also called for tough police enforcement. She said: “Being drunk is not an excuse and it needs to be stopped.”
Police Scotland’s representative, chief inspector Samantha Ainslie, was unable to tell participants how many fixed penalty notices they have issued at the Meadows of late but stressed officers will always take enforcement action when it is deemed necessary. She also said the vast majority of people enjoying the Meadows have been sticking to the rules.
People can now meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from six different households. Travel bans across Scotland have also been lifted to enable families to travel between council areas for the purposes of socializing, recreation or exercising.
Friday’s meeting followed a crisis Meadows ‘summit’ held last week after shocking footage emerged of violent scenes there over Easter weekend. This included cases of assault and widespread breaking of Covid restrictions. In one case, a police officer was taken to hospital with facial injuries after responding to reports of mass gatherings and fighting at the park.
A teenager appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last Thursday after a 22-year-old man was found seriously injured in Middle Meadow Walk during the violence.
Following the incidents, Edinburgh City Council and Police Scotland created a ‘Meadows action plan’ - including a dedicated policing operation, council surveillance van and park ranger patrol - to deter further antisocial behaviour.