John McLellan: Police must tackle Bonfire Night thugs

A burnt-out car in Craigentinny following the Bonfire Night carnage: Picture: Lisa Ferguson
A burnt-out car in Craigentinny following the Bonfire Night carnage: Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Passions ran predictably high at Craigentinny Community centre on Monday night at the public meeting to discuss the recent Bonfire Night trouble and, from residents’ demands, three key points emerged.

1. Fireworks should only be sold to responsible adults involved in proper displays.

2. Communities should still be able to have bonfires and small-scale displays but they need proper supervision.

3. Despite very good reasons for police avoiding direct confrontation with gangs of youths in case trouble escalates, there is a clear and understandable expectation that officers should intervene to break up gangs and make arrests when flashpoints are close to homes.

READ MORE: Edinburgh in flames: Readers share their images of Bonfire Night carnage

The implications are considerable. Number one needs a change in the law and number two a change of council policy and a beefed-up licensing department. Number three requires new policing policy, and while no-one wants riot police on Edinburgh’s streets, it’s the consequence of expecting officers to act while under attack from rocks and rockets. Firefighters have been targeted on Bonfire Night for years now, long before anyone had heard of austerity, and it seems some people just regard it as an excuse to attack emergency crews.

When people are afraid to leave their own homes, enough is surely enough and a zero-tolerance approach as events are unfolding is overdue. If the Scottish Government can introduce laws to punish football supporters for singing songs, then it’s about time it got tough on those who attack officers trying to keep people safe.