Santa '˜carted off' by police after statue protest

A man in a Santa suit staged a bizarre protest on top of an iconic statue.

Protester Ricky McConnell, dressed up as Santa, sits on top of the Duke of Wellington statue in Glasgow city centre.

Decked out in a red suit and a white beard, the protester used a cherry picker to scale Glasgow’s famous Duke of Wellington statue.

The nineteenth-century statue, which sits in the city’s Royal Exchange Square, has become synonymous with an orange traffic cone which sits on the top of the Duke’s head.

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Ricky McConnell, 53, sat behind the Duke on his high horse and strapped himself to the landmark for the third year in a row as dozens of onlookers cheered.

He was previously slapped with a £40 spot fine and spent several hours in a police cell.

But his previous run-in with the law has not put him off.

This year he sat on the statue for over an hour, waving at fans before he was brought down and carted off by police officers to a chorus of boos and cries of “free Santa”.

McConnell, from Glasgow, said: “It’s tradition. I do it every year without fail. The Duke and I are like brothers now.

“The adrenaline’s all there. It definitely takes everything else away.

“People’s reactions don’t bother me. At the end of the day I look forward to putting a smile on their faces.”

Located outside the Gallery of Modern Art, the equestrian statue by Italian artist Carlo Marochetti was erected in 1844.

Police officers stood nearby and observed the stunt, while onlookers were baffled by the bizarre sight.

Ian MacDonald, 61, from Glasgow, said: “It’s probably the right thing to do to attract attention this time of year.

“Santa’s a reasonable guy. I think the police are taking a good approach just standing by. It’s a wee bit of publicity for him.”

Ellen MacDonald, 55, retired, from Glasgow, said: “It must be cold for him up there.”

The prank was designed to promote McConnell’s charity, kidshaverights2, which he founded after a dispute over access to his 11-year-old son.

He said: “I’m calling on the nation to come together to stop child abuse.

“It’s not about me this thing, it’s not about Ricky McConnell at all.

“It’s about the awareness to say to the kids that Santa’s here, and he’s thinking about you and fighting for you.”

McConnell claims the response to his stunts and fundraising efforts has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “At around 11.25am we responded to reports of a man dressed as Santa on the Duke of Wellington statue in Royal Exchange Square.

“The man came down from the statue at around 12.30pm.

“He was not arrested. Advice and guidance was given.”