Edinburgh's Bonfire Night mayhem condemned in Scottish Parliament as 'sickening' and 'intolerable'

MSP calls for police cuts in Edinburgh to be reversed

The Bonfire Night mayhem, which saw masked youths throwing fireworks at residents and the emergency services, and police called to several parts of the Capital, has been condemned as “intolerable” by Scotland’s community safety minister.

Newly appointed Elena Whitham told the Scottish Parliament: “The disorder and thuggery that occurred on and around bonfire night, which involved not just fireworks and pyrotechnics but bricks and even petrol bombs, was sickening. I express my heartfelt thanks to our emergency services for their dedication and bravery in working in appalling situations to keep our communities as safe as possible.

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“I welcome the fact that Police Scotland has made it clear that investigations are on-going and that it aims to bring the culprits to justice. I urge any member of the public who has relevant information to get in touch with the police, either directly or anonymously through Crimestoppers.”

Labour MSP Katy Clark said between 2016 and 2020 there had been only 20 firework convictions and none in 2020-21 and asked Ms Whitham how she would ensure there were convictions from this year’s events. And she urged the minister to find out how the fireworks had been obtained, whether from a shop, online, on the black market or elsewhere.

‘Youths terrorised residents’

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Ms Whitham – who replaced Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Regan after she resigned over gender recognition – said: “There is no equivocation on the part of the Scottish Government. Where there is offending of the type that has been seen over recent days, we will fully support Police Scotland in pursuing investigations, and, where sufficient evidence is obtained, using its powers appropriately to make arrests and bring charges.” She said there was no evidence of widespread black market sales though there had been isolated incidents involving the supply of illicit firework products.

Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber condemned “disgraceful scenes” across Edinburgh at the weekend. She said: “Violence erupted and police were injured in petrol bomb attacks. A substantial number of youths terrorised residents by throwing fireworks at innocent car drivers and incendiary devices at emergency response vehicles. Police vehicles were attacked and officers suffered facial and eye injuries. That utterly disgraceful behaviour cannot be repeated.”

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The Niddrie area was locked down after a serious disturbance on Bonfire Night. Picture: Dan Barker/PA Wire.

She accused the SNP of rushing through its Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill in June but “doing nothing to address community safety concerns” and called on the government to reverse budget cuts to the police “to ensure that our officers have the resources to tackle that type of disorder and keep our communities safe”.

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Ms Whitham backed Ms Webber’s comments on “the intolerable behaviour that we saw” but said no budget had yet been set. And she added: “I will keep a close eye on the situation, because our communities cannot endure what we saw last weekend.”

Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald spoke of the “appalling behaviour” over bonfire weekend, including an incident in the Sighthill park area. But he noted that the number of calls the police received about such behaviour was down 17 per cent from 581 last year to 483 this year.

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Ms Whitham welcomed the fall, but stressed: “It is absolutely imperative that we ensure that bonfire night does not happen again as it did, because it was intolerable.” She said on Bonfire Night she had attended the command room at Bilston Glen to see the scale of the challenge. “I cannot praise the police and partners enough.”