BAD Santa visited Glasgow city centre yesterday when a bearded man in a red suit mounted the landmark cone-topped Wellington statue and strapped himself to the duke.
But Santa’s festive stunt was soon over – and he was given a fine for his antics.
Santa used a cherry picker to place himself on the famous statue outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square at 10:30am.
Within minutes, police and firefighters rushed to the scene and a two-hour stand-off ensued – to the amusement of many passers-by.
Community wardens were also seen below the statue begging the man to get down in time to deliver children’s presents next week.
After tense negotiations played out in front of a gathering crowd of Christmas shoppers, the man decided to give himself up and was helped down by firefighters before being taken away by officers, to chants of “free Santa” from a number of onlookers.
Witnesses told how Santa hugged his rescuers and posed for pictures with them before he was arrested and driven to a nearby police station, where he was issued with a £40 fine for breach of the peace.
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It is understood Santa was actually a lookalike – a 51-year-old children’s rights campaigner seeking access to his child.
During his time on the duke’s horse, he had unfurled a banner proclaiming that “kids have rights”.
Eyewitness Ruth Broers, 31, had stepped out of her office for lunch when she saw people congregating around the statue.
The marketing manager said: “It was hilarious and all very good-natured. There were loads of people watching and he was waving at them. He was obviously well prepared because he had a harness with him.
“He was up there for quite a while, then the fire service put up a ladder and a fireman chatted to him before he came down.
“There were cheers when he was rescued but as soon as he was down, the police put him in a van and everyone booed.”
Pictures and footage of the incident were posted on social networking sites.
The “cone hat” image of the Wellington monument has previously been named by Lonely Planet as one of ten Scottish inclusions in a list of the top 1,000 sights in the world.
The tradition of placing a cone on the statue is thought to have been started by late-night revellers in the 1980s.
In 2000, Glasgow City Council took down the cone for promotional tourism photography but replaced it after an outcry by local people and politicians. Last year, a plan to raise the plinth of the statue, in a bid to end the cone-topping tradition, was also dropped following a backlash by Glaswegians.
Images of the cone-topped statue are now used to promote Glasgow and feature on posters, coasters and key rings.
The statue of the Duke of Wellington, famous for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and later becoming prime minister, was sculpted by Italian artist Carlo Marochetti and erected in 1844.
Last night, a police spokeswoman said: “A 51-year-old man has been served with a fixed-penalty ticket following an incident at the Duke of Wellington statue at Royal Exchange Square.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “We received a call from police reporting a man stuck on the Duke of Wellington statue. A single crew was sent and they assisted in getting him safely down.”
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