Spectators to be kept off Princes Street for fireworks
Police chiefs have forced the abandonment of plans to reopen part of the thoroughfare, currently closed to accommodate work on the trams project, to thousands of revellers.
The shock decision is a huge embarrassment for the council and the Edinburgh International Festival. Organisers were promised months ago that part of Princes Street would be reopened for its Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert.
Hundreds of extra police officers and stewards are expected to be drafted in after the police ruled out opening a section of Princes Street – weeks after the council and its tram firm announced the move.
The decision leaves the authorities with a huge security headache as the city centre is expected to be thronged with revellers. Some 10,000 tickets have been sold for the fireworks concert on 6 September and thousands of residents need access.
Steve Cardownie, the council's festivals champion, admitted the decision would be "hugely disappointing" for many people, but said safety concerns from had to come first. Police chiefs insisted the decision had been taken jointly with the council.
During a number of recent crisis meetings, senior police officers had warned they could not guarantee the safety of tens of thousands of revellers cramming into small sections of the city centre to secure vantage points.
Now a ring of steel is to be thrown around Princes Street several hours before the EIF's showpiece in a bid to prevent people taking up viewpoints in front of Edinburgh Castle. Ticketholders to watch the fireworks in Princes Street Gardens will be directed past barriers and security checks.
Frederick Street, Castle Street and Hanover Street will all be sealed off on the night, as well as The Mound.
Just two heavily-stewarded "managed viewing areas" are being allowed – on Waverley Bridge and North Bridge.
Now a major publicity drive to promote alternatives – like the traditional "family area" at Inverleith Park or atop Calton Hill – is to be launched.
One council insider said: "It's been a police decision to close off Princes Street and it's now going to be a real headache trying to enforce it".
And last night, Cllr Cardownie said: "The police are the real safety experts and we wouldn't want anyone to be injured, or worse."
Joanna Baker, managing director of the festival, said: "We had hoped that a section of Princes Street would be open to the public for the event, however public safety has to be paramount and we work closely with the city council to ensure that the Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert is a safe and enjoyable event for all."
Council leader Jenny Dawe said added: "It is vital that we ensure that everyone can enjoy the occasion as safely as possible. While it is unfortunately not viable on the grounds of public safety to allow viewing areas on Princes Street this year, Inverleith Park and Calton Hill are spacious alternative areas.
A police spokeswoman said: "We work very closely with the council's public safety officers when planning for any major event."