Last year parts of my constituency was subjected to extreme antisocial behaviour. Residents were terrified and property badly damaged by large groups of youths. Police Scotland officers and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) fire officers had fireworks thrown at them.
The Scottish Government has been working in partnership with Police Scotland, the SFRS and two HM Inspectorates to ensure that services are well prepared for this year’s celebrations and can respond robustly to any antisocial behaviour.
Within my capacity as Minister for Community Safety, I recently met with local community partnership members who have been working to promote the safe and responsible use of fireworks in Edinburgh to discuss on-going preparations. I also met police officers and fire officers who have previously experienced unacceptable abuse on or around Bonfire Night.
Bonfire Night is an opportunity for local communities to come together and for families to enjoy fireworks responsibly and I would encourage people to attend officially organised displays where fireworks are controlled in a safe environment.
I have had an update from Police Scotland and I have been informed that in order to meet the challenges better this year, that from Wednesday 31st October to Tuesday 6th of November 2018, significant additional conventional resources will be deployed to support Local Area Commanders deliver their locality plans. In 2017, the majority of the disorder occurred in the North East and North West localities. In particular, the areas Muirhouse, West Pilton, Portobello and Loganlea. In response to this, and in consultation with the Local Authority, officers will enforce dispersal zones (under the terms of S.19 ASB etc. (S) Act 2004) in these areas between 1400 hours and 0000 hours each day from Friday 2nd November 2018 until 0000 hours on Tuesday 6th November 2018 inclusive. In respect of groups of two or more persons in these areas (in public), officers will be empowered to:
- Direct persons in the group to disperse;
- Direct those who do not reside at the locality to leave it, or any part of it;
- Direct those who do not live in the locality from returning to it, or any part of it, for up to 24 hours from the time direction was given;
- Arrest without warrant any person reasonably suspected to have committed or be committing such an offence;
The safety of the public is paramount and we need to ensure a selfish minority do not spoil the celebrations for others. The use of fireworks as a means of inflicting injury on individuals, including members of our emergency services, is completely unacceptable and illegal. I must stress that robust action will be taken against anyone who puts lives at risk.
I would strongly urge members of the public to report any criminal or antisocial behaviour to Police Scotland on 101 or if someone’s life is on danger 999, or otherwise you can anonymously report through CrimeStoppers on 0800 555111.
This article first appeared in The Speaker.