Security tightens ahead of Edinburgh Festival and Robbie Williams gig
Fringe chiefs have ruled out bag searches being carried out on thousands of festival-goers thronging popular street theatre arenas '“ despite a stepping up of security in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
A more visible police presence and more robust road blocks beside pedestrianised areas are among the measures expected to be put in place during the Fringe, which around 2.5 million people are expected to attend.
Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy said security was “top of the agenda” this summer and was being reviewed in the wake of the most recent incidents.
She spoke as police chiefs said armed officers would be patrolling the Robbie Williams gig at Murrayfield tomorrow night.
Bag searches are already carried out at the main entrance to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle esplanade, but Ms McCarthy said she did not believe it would be “feasible, possible or desirable” to search people entering public areas like the Royal Mile.
She said registered Fringe venues may be advised to step up their own security measures once a full safety audit is carried out.
Organisers of major events in Edinburgh this summer have already held talks with police chiefs and council officials in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks.
Ms McCarthy said: “For anybody doing an event at the moment, security is uppermost in their minds.
“We’re in constant contact with the police, counter-terrorism officials, the city council and all of the other key players involved with safety and security in the city. Of course it’s going to be a priority, of course everybody is talking about it at the moment and of course we’re putting updated plans in place to make sure we keep people as safe as possible.
“Obviously the Royal Mile and The Mound are open public areas and it is not feasible, possible or even desirable to do bag checks on public walkways and in public spaces. We don’t have any control over individual venues; some of them may choose to do bag checks.”
A spokeswoman for the Fringe added: “There are ongoing conversations with police, counter-terrorism and the city council.
“We always have regular meetings in the run-up to the Fringe, but of course we’ve had further conversations this year. These are very much based on their advice, updating our event plan and making sure we disseminate information to our network of venues so that they have the best practices in place that they possibly can.
“It would be wrong for us to comment on any recommendations until a lot closer to the event. There are different protocols in place depending on the level of threat at the time. There is no specific threat to Edinburgh and Scotland. There is no intelligence to suggest we’re in a more threatened position than we’ve been in previously.
“That’s absolutely the message we’ve been given and it’s absolutely the message we’d give to the public. There’s nothing to suggest there’s any issue here, but we’re doing everything we can to ensure that every performer, venue and space is safe.”
As well as the Fringe street theatre arenas on the High Street and next to the Scottish National Gallery, part of George Street will be closed off to accommodate an expansion of the Book Festival and pavement cafes.
One insider said: “There will be basically be strong enough barriers in place to ensure that anyone trying to drive into a pedestrianised area will not be able to do so. But it would be impossible to search everyone in a pedestrianised area.”
Roddy Smith, chief executive of city centre group Essential Edinburgh, said: “We will take our lead directly from the police and the counter-terrorism experts. Whatever they advise, we will deliver.”
Checks will be stepped up when tens of thousands of fans flock to see former Take That star Williams perform.
Concert-goers have been told to arrive early, with a pre-show bar outside the stadium open from 3pm and the arena itself from 5pm.
Food and drink brought from outside will be confiscated, though drinking water will be available at various points around the stadium.
BRIAN FERGUSON and ANDY SHIPLEY