Scots usher in New Year celebrations with message from space

Fireworks at the Torchlight Procession in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna
Fireworks at the Torchlight Procession in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Tens of thousands of revellers descended on Edinburgh to welcome in 2016 with a host of spectacular celebrations including a special message from astronaut Tim Peake from the International Space Station, just before the Bells.

The 23rd Edinburgh Hogmanay, which was to be seen by billions on television worldwide, was tipped as yet another spectacular success with tickets to the Concert in the Gardens, headlined by Biffy Clyro, a sell-out.

People had told us about the way Scots celebrate New Year but I was not expecting to see a whole city turned over to a massive big jamboree like this

Mark Jones

More that 75,000 people from more than 80 countries thronged the streets to join in the festivities being held on four stages – at Castle Street, Frederick Street, the Waverley Stage and the Mound Stage – and broadcast on seven screens along Princes Street.

A total of four fireworks displays were planned from 9pm onwards counting down to midnight. A new addition this Hogmanay was a minute of blue fireworks at 10pm in support of Unicef, the international children’s charity and aimed at raising awareness of children whose lives have been blighted by the war in Syria.

Another sell-out was the Old Town Ceilidh on the cobbled area by St Giles’s Cathedral, which wanted to smash the Guiness World Record ‘World’s Largest Strip the Willow.’ The event brought traditional celebrations back to a party of the city which used to see thousands gather outside the Tron Kirk on the High Street on the Royal Mile.

Earlier police had sought to reassure people security measures were in place amid a general crackdown worldwide following the Paris terror attacks last month.

Assistant chief constable Mark Williams, the police commander for the event, said that policing for the city’s Hogmanay events had taken the “context of national security” into account.

“I am very confident that the arrangements in place, not just policing arrangements but for the entire event, have taken into account the context of national security.

“There is a couple of things I would stress: there is absolutely no specific threat against Scotland or this event, as things stand, and the ‘threat’ level, which is at ‘severe’ nationally, is unchanged at this present time.

“I am very confident that the public can attend Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations safely, but my message to them is also be aware, be vigilant.”

The city’s celebrations got under way on Wednesday night with a torchlight procession when 10,000 torchbearers travelled from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill for the fireworks finale.

Pete Irvine, director of Unique Events which produces Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on behalf of the city council, said: “The Torchlight Procession is just the start of a fabulous three days of events for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

Mr Irvine added: “This is a truly global event with revellers joining us from around the world. This year we’ve gone one better and will be visited from space.”

Experiencing Edinburgh’s Hogmanay for the first time were Sue and Mark Jones from Jacana, in Melbourne, Australia.

Mr Jones, 35, an IT worker, said: “We’ve been here for three days now and we can feel the city building up to something really big. People had told us about the way Scots celebrate New Year but I was not expecting to see a whole city turned over to a massive big jamboree like this.”

Marie Wagner, 19, from Toronto, Canada, who is working as an au pair in Glasgow, said last year’s crowd control problems and the terror attacks in Paris had not put her and her friends off buying tickets for the Street Party.

“My family was from Dundee and I’ve wanted to be here and be part of things for years. I’m sure the organisers will be doing their best and we just want to get out there and party.”

Elsewhere, a firework display was to be held in Aberdeen where around 3,000 people are expected to will join in the celebrations in the city ­centre.

Other major events in the North-east include Stonehaven’s Open Air in the Square, the Aberdeenshire town’s fireballs ceremony and the Gig at the Brig in Ellon.

Chief Inspector Richard Craig, local area commander for Aberdeenshire south, said: “The festive season is a fantastic period of the year and Hogmanay is a traditional time of celebration.

“We want to encourage people to enjoy themselves, have fun with their friends and family members but to be safe and responsible.”

In Stirling, were to celebrations centre around a Carnival of Light and Sound with an evening parade through the city centre, family entertainment in King’s Park and a fireworks display.

The celebrations were to get under way when a light parade travels through the streets, featuring costumes and lanterns from local community groups, students, children and artists.

Provost Mike Robbins said: “Stirling is a fantastic place to see in the New Year and our Hogmanay celebrations this year have something for everyone.”

Scotland’s justice secretary Michael Matheson urged people to drink responsibly.