​Police need funding to face Bonfire Night mayhem - Ian Murray

The Niddrie area of Edinburgh was locked down after a serious disturbance on Bonfire NightThe Niddrie area of Edinburgh was locked down after a serious disturbance on Bonfire Night
The Niddrie area of Edinburgh was locked down after a serious disturbance on Bonfire Night
​​The scenes in Niddrie and south Edinburgh on Bonfire Night were disgraceful. These co-ordinated attacks on police officers put lives at risk and terrified local residents.

Emergency service personnel work on the front line to protect others and there must be a zero-tolerance approach to these incidents.

While most of those directly involved were youngsters, it’s clear that adults helped orchestrate the chaos.

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To anyone who provided the fireworks or was involved in the planning, consider this: imagine if a loved one had been attacked somewhere else in the city that night and needed police assistance, but officers were too busy dealing with the anti-social behaviour to attend.

Or imagine that your house caught fire and the fire service couldn’t come quickly enough because they were dealing with the carnage. And then think about this – what impact have you had on the life opportunities of those young people? They might now get a criminal record and a harsh lesson that will influence their future.

For the adults involved, I hope they face the full force of the law so that we do everything we can to prevent this kind of carnage reoccurring.

But preventing such behaviour will take more than that. It requires using new powers which allow councils to grant designated firework control zones, yet the Scottish Government made it virtually impossible to implement these in time for this year.

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And while Scottish Labour supported the creation of new criminal offences under the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles Act, the legislation lacks clarity on how firework misuse and anti-social behaviour will be addressed.

Licensing alone will not fully solve these issues and risks developing a black market for firework sales. There needs to be a suite of measures. And crucial to this is addressing the resourcing challenges facing the police and fire services.

This week it emerged there has been a 5.2 per cent cut to local division police officers in Edinburgh since 2020. That’s a fall from 1164 to 1103. And worse is to come: Police Scotland numbers are expected to fall by a further 600 nationally by April next year to the lowest level since 2007.

And what of community policing – all but gone. The force has become fully reactive – that means it can only respond to emergency incidents and has no time to work in communities, building relationships to prevent crime in the first place.

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The SNP has chronically under-resourced the police, with devastating consequences.

I know that residents are deeply concerned about rising anti-social behaviour and housebreaking. Officially, these may be classed as ‘low-level’ crimes, but to the people affected they most certainly are not.

In recent weeks I have been working closely with officers in areas such as Gilmerton and Liberton to reassure residents and provide information on how people can reduce the risk of being burgled.

But the best solution would be to give the police the resources they need. When Bonfire Night 2024 comes around, we cannot simply find ourselves asking the same questions. Action is needed now.

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We must rebuild the bond between the police and local communities, ensuring the resources are in place to address crime while also using new and existing legislative powers to prevent a repeat of the despicable scenes we witnessed last weekend.

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