Bonfire Night disorder in Edinburgh and Dundee reminded me of sectarian riots in Northern Ireland. Tough sentences must be handed down – Kenny MacAskill

As a defence lawyer, I appeared in cases where there had been considerable disorder.

Sometimes in licensed premises, other times in the street or outside football stadia. Mobbing and rioting was the charge, for that’s what it was. Unpleasant and unacceptable but, to be fair, it was soon brought under control and the perpetrators dealt with severely.

None of it though was on a scale or of the extent of what was seen recently on the streets in Niddrie or Kirkton. That crossed a line which is why action needs taken both against those behaving in that disgraceful manner and attacking “blue light” staff irrespective of which uniform they were wearing or what vital service they were providing.

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Indeed, the closest I’ve seen to the video clips from those incidents was footage I was shown, when Justice Secretary, of youths whose faces were hidden by scarves or balaclavas burning bins or even using them to store and carry petrol bombs to attack the police. But that was East Belfast, not Scotland, and at a time of sectarian tensions, not fireworks night.

A firework explodes near traffic lights in Edinburgh's Niddrie areaA firework explodes near traffic lights in Edinburgh's Niddrie area
A firework explodes near traffic lights in Edinburgh's Niddrie area

So action must be taken. It may well force further review of fireworks sales, and I sense there’s a willingness for change as more and more it’s organised large displays rather than families in their back garden. Weather and cost maybe are important factors, along with changing tastes. But having fireworks used as some form of rocket attack on emergency services necessitates further tightening of what, after all, are still classified as firearms.

Similarly, those involved need pursued and dealt with vigorously. There need to be some exemplary sentences to show public disapproval and also to protect the communities that have suffered under them, not just then but almost daily. The guid folk in these communities have been long suffering. The culprits remain a small minority in these areas, even if they think they rule them. That latter attitude needs addressed.

Sadly, anti-social behaviour seems to have increased post Covid. Maybe because youngsters have been stuck inside with parents totally lacking in parental skills. But for whatever reason they’ve burst out and are causing havoc. That requires wider action with alternatives and support, but it also requires the leaders of the main disorder to be punished appropriately.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian



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