IT MAY not have qualified as treason but there was plenty of gunpowder and plot when it came to the fate of an effigy of Alex Salmond at an English bonfire celebration.
Despite assurances that likenesses of Mr Salmond would be spared the Guy Fawkes treatment, his effigy was blown up in Lewes, East Sussex, on bonfire night in spectacular fashion.
When it first emerged that a guy had been created in the image of Mr Salmond, there was storm of protest from supporters of the outgoing First Minister.
The objections led to local police saying that Mr Salmond’s effigy had been withdrawn from the bonfire night celebrations, which are amongst the largest in the UK.
The assurances proved groundless, however, when photographs were posted on social media yesterday showing that a topless Mr Salmond wearing a kilt had been burnt to a crisp.
Originally, two large models of the politician were created for the Lewes bonfire parade, but Sussex Police said they had been withdrawn following complaints on social media.
But pictures emerged online yesterday of one of the effigies at the centre of a fireworks display.
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One effigy depicted Mr Salmond holding a sign reading 45 per cent, the proportion of Scottish people who voted for independence from the UK in September, while the Loch Ness Monster peers over his shoulder.
The second model portrayed Mr Salmond, naked from the waist up, wearing a kilt and sitting on a bucket of North Sea oil.
A number of societies take part in the parade, each providing their own effigies, costumes, bonfire sites and procession route within the town. Waterloo Bonfire Society created the caricature of Mr Salmond and Nessie and said it had “no wish or intention to offend”.
Sussex Police said that complaints had been raised and initially tweeted: “For those enquiring, we have been advised that there won’t be any burning of the Alex Salmond effigies this evening in Lewes.”
However, Twitter user Michael Story posted photos at the end of the parade which appeared to show the kilt-wearing effigy exploding in a puff of black smoke amid a fireworks display. Other pictures appeared to show fireworks firing out of the figure’s nipples.
Mr Story wrote: “To be absolutely clear: tonight I saw an effigy of Alex Salmond lit by fireworks then blown up at Lewes.”
Sussex Police is looking at a number of complaints about the portrayal of Mr Salmond as an effigy and is “trying to establish whether or not any crime may have been committed”. A spokeswoman for the force added: “Officers spoke to the bonfire societies on the night to make them aware of the concerns being raised about the effigies of the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
“It was left up to the societies to make a decision about what they did with the effigies,” the spokeswoman added.
High-profile politicians and celebrities have been targets of the parade in the past.
Television presenter and journalist Piers Morgan tried to soften the blow by tweeting: “Don’t take this Lewes bonfire thing too personally @AlexSalmond – they burned me too.”
Mr Salmond said: “I’m in pretty good company – Angela Merkel got the burning treatment from the East Sussex Conservative council.
“I think their judgment is askew but if they think I’m a threat to the Westminster establishment like Guy Fawkes, they are right. I am used to insults from Tories in East Sussex and if they think that is a good thing to do, it is up to them.”
He added that he was more concerned about Nessie being burned and said that was “totally outrageous”.
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