Council to launch ‘co-ordinated action’ to combat Bonfire Night violence

Alistair Clark - with his Audi that was set alight. Last year teenagers ran riot with  set cars on fire in a Bonfire Night of carnage in Pilton and Craigentinny
Alistair Clark - with his Audi that was set alight. Last year teenagers ran riot with set cars on fire in a Bonfire Night of carnage in Pilton and Craigentinny
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The city council will team up with police and firefighters for “co-ordinated action” to halt violence and antisocial behaviour that marred last year’s Bonfire Night celebrations.

Emergency services were inundated with more than 250 calls over “dangerous use of fireworks and antisocial behaviour” on November 5 last year. Fireworks were reportedly thrown by youths, resulting in a serious injury to a police officer.

Council Leader'Adam McVey

Council Leader'Adam McVey

Properties were also damaged and “residents left disturbed and feeling unsafe, both within and outside their homes”. Residents in Muirhouse and Pilton described youths in balaclavas roaming the streets and fireworks were fired at passers-by from high-rise flats.

A city-wide Community Improvement Partnership has now been set up to prevent a repeat of the disorder taking place this year.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “I think it will help avoid some of the problems we have had in the past. We are certainly not ignoring the situation as it is now and are robustly working with partners to make sure we have a safe, happy fireworks night.

“It includes enforcement and it’s co-ordination between police, fire and the council. There are lots of things we can do in isolation, but the co-ordinated action makes it much more effective.”

Cllr John McLellan called on the council to help the police be prepared if a similar situation escalates this year.

He said: “Some of the greatest confusion and greatest concern amongst people was the positive decision by the police not to engage with the troublemakers on this night.

“What the public wanted to see was, if there was an incident, that it would be dealt with very quickly by the police. The reality was the officers that faced the trouble were not equipped to deal with it and the decision not to engage was the right one for their safety.”

The council’s trading standards officers will visit and inspect all premises in the city that are licensed for the storage of fireworks in the lead-up to Bonfire Night.

But officers have found it difficult to carry out spot checks on businesses suspected of selling fireworks to children.

Regulatory services manager Andrew Mitchell said: “From my experience, one of the problems is that properties who we suspect are selling fireworks to children will only sell it to children they recognise. So if you get volunteers from another area, they don’t recognise them and therefore you don’t get a sale.

“Our problem premises are quite canny.”

Cllr McVey has written to both Westminster and Holyrood governments, calling on tighter regulations to make sure fireworks are sold responsibly. He hopes a discussion can take place between all three parties, potentially through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

Depute council leader, Cllr Cammy Day, wants to tackle the issue after the trouble in his local ward.

He said: “There were calls at some point about ‘should we ban them and should it only be for organised displays. I don’t think we got to that point, but we have called for a report about what powers are available to us.

“We are not saying that across the city, it is a huge problem, but there are parts where it is becoming a real issue.

“I think in some parts of the city, they were becoming freely available and there’s an issue about getting them delivered to your door from online sales.”