Police condemn ‘extreme violence’ after petrol bombs thrown at officers

Police condemn ‘extreme violence’ after petrol bombs thrown at officers

Police have condemned the “extreme violence” which saw petrol bombs and fireworks thrown at riot police in Edinburgh and left several officers injured.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has also voiced his concerns about the “thuggish” and “reckless” behaviour on November 5, when some fire crews were attacked.

The worst disorder happened in the Niddrie area of Edinburgh where dozens of youths gathered on Hay Avenue just before 5pm on Sunday in a repeat of disorder seen last year in the neighbourhood.

Police said about 50 people were responsible for directing fireworks, petrol bombs and other projectiles at buildings, vehicles and police.

The clean-up operation was well underway on Monday, but much of the area was still littered with debris from the night before.

Parts of the Hay Avenue area had clear scorch marks from Sunday evening.

Boxes of spent fireworks had also been discarded on a grass common close to Hay Avenue with names such as Atomic Bomb.

Some of the brands of fireworks used can cost up to £200.

Bonfire Night disorder
Police were called to Hay Avenue at 4.40pm, and buses were cancelled with road closures implemented (Handout/ PA)

The force believes young people were being actively encouraged and co-ordinated by adults to target officers while they carried out their duties.

Officers were also called to incidents in Dundee and Glasgow, with five officers in Glasgow and Edinburgh injured on what police described as a night of “unprecedented levels of violence”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said there were nine attacks on its crews during an eight-hour period on Bonfire Night, which saw crews bombarded with fireworks and bricks.

No firefighters were injured – however, a fire appliance in West Lothian had a windscreen smashed by a brick and had to be removed from operational service.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs said officers faced “the most extreme violence that we’ve seen” since the launch of Operation Moonbeam which was set up by Police Scotland in 2018 to tackle Bonfire Night disorder.

He told the PA news agency: “I think to see a large number of petrol bombs being thrown at police and for police officers having to dealing with large fireworks being fired at them along with the threat from petrol bombs and masonry is significant, but it’s not reflective of the wider community in Niddrie.

“Because we have highly trained and well equipped officers we were were able to deal with that, sadly, a number of officers received minor physical injuries and undoubtedly they will deal with the psychological toll of that as well.”

He said that that while the majority of Scotland enjoyed Bonfire Night, “Police Scotland officers were subjected to unprecedented levels of violence”.

Drone footage from Niddrie showed a line of police officers with riot shields standing in front of vans with blue lights flashing.

A mob of black-clad youths gathered on grass in front of them and began throwing pyrotechnics.

The police made a retreat as a petrol bomb hit the ground in front of them and fireworks exploded.

The assault continued, with petrol bombs and fireworks forcing police to shuffle backwards.

The officers then ran at the assailants, in footage filmed from a nearby sports centre.

A local business owner who has a shop on Hay Avenue told the PA news agency he had to close his shop an hour early as a result of the disorder.

He added: “Next year we will close three hours early because it (the road) will be blocked. Nobody can get in and out.”

Discarded fireworks in a park in the Niddrie area of Edinburgh
Discarded fireworks in a park in the Niddrie area of Edinburgh (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

A local dog walker, who declined to give his name, said the area had been left in “a mess” by youths and said he did not know where they were getting the money to buy fireworks from.

In Dundee, two police vehicles were struck by bricks in the Beauly Square area, while in Glasgow police received a report of about 20 youths fighting and throwing fireworks at one another in Barmulloch.

Police Scotland said that, so far, one person has been arrested in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh and more arrests are expected in the coming days as investigations continue.

They urged anyone with information to contact them on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be maintained.

Last year in Niddrie, motorbike gangs terrorised the neighbourhood on Bonfire Night while fireworks were thrown on the ground.

Andy Watt, SFRS assistant chief officer, said: “Attacks on our firefighters are completely unacceptable.

“Our staff should be able to carry out their role without being attacked. It is disappointing that people have tried to hurt firefighters and have damaged our appliances.”

Damage caused at a park in Niddrie
Damage caused at a park in Niddrie (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

SFRS received more than 892 calls from the public and Operations Control mobilised firefighters to approximately 355 bonfires across the country between 3.30pm and midnight on Sunday November 5.

Humza Yousaf said those responsible should face the full force of the law.

He told reporters: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms that thuggish, that reckless behaviour.”

Asked whether he would consider an outright ban on the sale of fireworks, he said: “An outright ban isn’t within our competence in the Scottish Government as far as I understand it, if it was then I would absolutely consider an outright ban. We will always consider what more the Government can do.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay branded the youths in Edinburgh “thugs”, and council leader Cammy Day said their behaviour was “disgraceful”.

Mr Day said: “This reckless behaviour endangers lives and, like the majority, I share in their dismay and upset at this disgraceful behaviour.”

Mr Findlay said: “Such attacks on police officers are cowardly, reckless and dangerous. Police Scotland need sufficient resources to tackle these thugs.”

Police have set up a major incident portal for the Niddrie incident which can be accessed at https://mipp.police.uk/operation/SCOT23S38-PO1