Edinburgh's war memorial: Call for security review in wake of Remembrance Sunday arson attack

Edinburgh council urged to step up measures to ensure memorial is treated with respect

Councillors will today be asked to agree to a review of security around Edinburgh’s war memorial following an attack late on Remembrance Sunday which saw poppy wreaths set on fire.

Organisers were left “devastated” after the wreaths were apparently deliberately set alight just hours after the annual national ceremony, involving First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Lord Provost Robert Aldridge, took place at the stone of remembrance outside the City Chambers.

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Tory group leader Iain Whyte has tabled a motion for the full council meeting, condemning the arson attack, commending the police, the fire service, council officers and Poppy Scotland for their swift action in dealing with the incident, and calling for a review of security at the war memorial “to ensure it is treated respectfully all year round”

The war memorial was targeted in an arson attack just hours after the annual national remembrance ceremony.

The motion notes that concerns were raised in the past about disrespectful treatment of the war memorial during busy periods on the High Street and about the use of temporary “Mills barriers” to provide some limited protection, but it says these attempts to improve security were yet to have the desired effect.

In 2020, the Evening News reported new measures were being planned to stop people standing on the war memorial or even having picnics on it. Up to £3,000 was to be spent to design appropriate changes, which could include new lighting and a barrier around the memorial. But Cllr Whyte said nothing had ever happened.

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Elaborating on his call for a security review, he said: "I wonder if we need to make sure that the CCTV that we have definitely covers that area. The concept of some kind of fencing that is appropriate and in keeping but can protect the memorial throughout the year I think is quite important. In the height of the summer I’ve seen lots f people just siting on it eating packed sandwiches and crisps, just not giving it due respect, using it as a perch to watch street theatre during the Fringe. That’s not appropriate.

"There is a very low chain but that’s all and the council keeps putting in ‘Mills barriers’ which are the steel barriers you put around roadworks or to control the crowds during big events. It just looks dreadful and as if there’s some works going on, rather than an appropriate setting for a war memorial in the middle of a World Heritage Site. If we really have to have fencing to protect it then it should be appropriate fencing in the archways that are there.”