John McLellan: Fast action extinguishes Bonfire Night trouble

A burnt-out car in Craigentinny last year following carnage on Bonfire Night. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A burnt-out car in Craigentinny last year following carnage on Bonfire Night. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Thankfully the disgraceful scenes of last year’s Bonfire Night were not repeated this week, thanks to the huge effort from police, the fire service and community workers.

Possible troublemakers were spoken to beforehand, shopkeepers briefed about their responsibilities, activities were laid on to distract young people who might have been drawn to trouble, bonfires were dismantled, flammable materials removed and dispersal zones enforced.

On the night there was some violence in Niddrie and the usual appalling verbal abuse of fire crews, but relatively speaking it was a much quieter evening.

In the North-East, where most of last year’s trouble took place, over the week from Hallowe’en to Bonfire night there were 26 fewer incidents than last year, with 15 complaints about bonfires, 37 about fireworks and 38 about anti-social behaviour.

While the longer term aim must be to keep these numbers going down, this year’s result still represents an enormous amount of time and hard work to control something which shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

Meanwhile, good news from Police Scotland is the establishment of dedicated house-breaking teams for each of the city’s four localities, as of this Monday. Crimes of dishonesty, including housebreaking, in Edinburgh rose by 13 per cent last year to 20,400 and this should finally rectify the blunder when senior ex-Strathclyde officers dismantled Lothian & Borders’ housebreaking squad against local advice. The priority is to improve poor detection rates, just nine per cent in the North-East.

Don’t blame opposition for poor relations

Yesterday’s Evening News story about the breakdown in relations between the Council’s housing and economy committee convener Kate Campbell (pictured) and the vice-convener, Lezley Cameron, contained a bizarre claim from an administration source that “opponents have been trying to build a divide between them”.

As both a member of the opposition and the committee I see them in action together at first hand. So it’s our fault the pair can’t be in the same room unaccompanied? Or that other administration councillors have been sent along to meetings as “observers”?

The truth is that my colleagues and I only need to stand back while the sparks fly at every meeting, and while such bad feeling may be to our advantage we don’t even have to light the touch-paper.

It’s for the SNP and Labour leadership to explain why they let it bubble away.

Clouded by partisanship

I touched a raw nerve last week by likening the ‘Tory free’ message on the Edinburgh 2050 City Vision website to the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in the 1970s. Ok, maybe it was a bit strong, but the demonisation of a large group of voters on official communications, whether casual, unintended or not, cannot go unchallenged.

The usefulness of what is, after all, just a marketing gimmick is open to question when as of yesterday it includes things like ‘marooner’, ‘no taxis’ and ‘future’, whatever that means. But at least I did my bit by giving it some publicity . . . some people are so ungrateful…

Airport fiction

Some years ago author Alexander McCall Smith wrote a lovely piece of fictional whimsy about Edinburgh’s lost underground network, which I published in The Scotsman. A few days later a dentist friend told me how interesting he’d found it and had been telling his patients about it. Publication day was April 1. So now it costs £2 just from driving through the place, let’s hope Edinburgh Airport doesn’t take his tongue-in-cheek suggestion that it starts charging for sitting 
down as seriously.