Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan: We’re not trying to ruin the fun – but bonfires are dangerous
In recent years we’ve seen an escalation in anti-social behaviour in the time leading up to Hallowe’en and Bonfire/Guy Fawkes Night. Protecting our communities from harm during Bonfire Night and beyond, is a priority for us in the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership.
We’ve seen instances of inappropriate use of fireworks, setting of fires in a dangerous manner and fly tipping which has contributed to availability of flammable items as well as worrying levels of antisocial behaviour.
This kind of activity places huge strain on the council and, of course, our partners Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service through their attendance to incidents, monitoring, removal of items from known locations and the clean-up exercise in the aftermath of such events.
We are also concerned about the safety risks posed to our staff and other professionals who are faced with this potentially dangerous behaviour.
Following the very disappointing events in 2017 and the damage caused across the city, a dedicated and citywide Bonfire Community Improvement Partnership was established where we worked with representatives from the police, fire service and the council trading standards, environmental wardens, transport and community justice teams to take a collaborative approach to reduce the levels of vandalism, antisocial behaviour and violence. We saw a reduction in anti-social behaviour and criminal activity last year, so we want to repeat our approach.
Last year we explored ways of engaging young people during the bonfire firework period and raising awareness of the hazards of combining antisocial behaviour and fireworks/bonfires. This year we have built on this by working with the Scottish Fire Rescue Service and Police Scotland to engage with young people through schools, the Risk Factory and in activities within our communities.
Whilst there is again increased emphasis from all partners on preventing the type of criminal behaviour we see around November 5 – we also want to promote how people take part in the festivities legally and safely. We’re not trying to ruin anyone’s fun, we just want to make sure everyone can enjoy the festivities safely.
We’re running a social media campaign to promote safe use of fireworks and advice around hosting bonfires – including how to register bonfire displays properly.
A number of bonfire amnestys are taking place across the city where you can dispose of any bulky items free of charge. Fly tipping during the bonfire and Fireworks season can be a major cause of fire – if you see fly tipping or notice is a build-up of refuse or combustible material, please let the council know.
We will continue to work with our partners on preventing anti-social behaviour in the lead up to Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night to ensure that Edinburgh remains a safe place for its residents.
Work is also ongoing with the Scottish Government, following the Scottish wide consultation on fireworks and residents’ views on the use of them across Scotland.
Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan is chair of the Community Safety Partnership and vice-convenor of the culture and communities committee at Ediinburgh City Council.