Extra security staff drafted in for Hogmanay party

Shaun Gibson  and Sarah Gardiner prepare the fireworks for the Hogmanay display. Picture: Greg Macean
Shaun Gibson and Sarah Gardiner prepare the fireworks for the Hogmanay display. Picture: Greg Macean
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AROUND 70 extra stewards are to be drafted in to replace police officers at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party after council chiefs refused to meet a demand for a £250,000 safety and security bill.

And it has emerged the Scottish Government and its agency EventScotland will be asked to help meet the cost of paying for police for the first time in the 22-year history of the event.

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The extra stewards will be added to the 500 security guards which the private firm G4S usually provides for the event, as well as more than 200 police officers who are expected to be on duty.

The local authority has also managed to negotiate its bill from Police Scotland down to less than £100,000 for the three-day festival, which is thought to be worth around £30 million to the economy, after agreeing to a scaling back of the police operation with senior officers.

The Scotsman revealed last month how preparations for the 75,000-capacity street party had been thrown into chaos by Police Scotland’s demands for its costs to be met by the local authority, despite an insistence from organisers that it is a non-commercial event.

Steve Cardownie, the city council’s festivals and events champion, said: “The figure we have agreed to pay is way below the figures that have been quoted on this. The discussions with the police have borne fruit and there has been a compromise reached.

“We were adamant that we were not going to compromise the safety of the event. The safety of people was far too important for us to skimp. The police and G4S have assured me that the event will be as safe as it normally is. This charge was levied at the council after we had set our budget [for the event].

“We are also hoping to get help to offset these extra costs this year. We will be looking to all our public funding partners to see if a contribution can be made.”

Sam Bryce, regional manager at G4S, said: “We had around 500 stewards on duty last year and it has been a similar figure in recent years. We will be up to around 570 this year.

“For most people coming the event, I actually think there will be see more police on the ground. I think they will actually have a more visible presence the way they will be deployed on the night. Police officers are there to handle crime and disorder, stewards are there to control the crowds.”

Police Scotland insisted it had to impose a charge for the event as part of the consistent enforcement of a new nationwide policy, which sees event organisers pay up to £83 an hour per police officer.

The move had been resisted over the Hogmanay celebrations as the policy was brought in after a new three-year contract, worth £3.9 million, to organise the city’s winter festivals had been awarded by the council to two private firms, Unique Events and Underbelly.

Chief superintendent Mark Williams said he would not disclose the number of police officers who were expected to work at the event as it was “operationally sensitive” and could change.

The Hogmanay festivities, which start tonight with a torchlight procession to Calton Hill, are being headlined by pop acts Lily Allen and Soul II Soul, who are performing in Princes Street Gardens tomorrow.

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