The best yet – capital shows why it’s Home of Hogmanay

IT HAS been dubbed the “Home of Hogmanay”, and on Saturday night the world came to Edinburgh to enjoy what the event organiser described as “the best we have ever had”.

Revellers from more than 50 nations, joined the 80,000 people on Princes Street and watched in wonder as a massive 5.5 tonnes of fireworks lit up the night sky above Edinburgh Castle.

Pete Irvine, who launched Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 19 years ago, yesterday hailed it as the best night in the event’s history, as top bands and fireworks, together with the mild, if showery, weather, combined to create a night that visitors from as far away as Peru, Botswana and Tobago are likely never to forget.

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The director of Unique Events said: “I think the word of mouth will be that this was the best one we have ever had.

“I’m really difficult to please,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist and get really demoralised whenever there is a glitch; however, everything has gone spectacularly successfully.

“I don’t know how to rate it, but it must be close to a ten. The fireworks were the best we’ve ever had, the bands were the best we’ve ever had. We have truly launched 2012 in style.”

He said the statistic that best captured the event was the fact that there had been only three arrests for minor breaches of the peace – fewer than on a normal Saturday night.

Mr Irvine said: “The statistic that stands out most of all was the fact that with all the people gathered in the city, not just at the event but on the surrounding areas watching the fireworks, there was just three arrests for minor offences.

“That is amazing. Everyone was looking after each other.”

Among those enjoying the festivities in the capital was Jing Hoan, 22, from China.

She said: “The weather might be warmer at home, but I wouldn’t miss this for anything – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are people here from everywhere and everyone is very enthusiastic. It is a little bit colder than I am used to, but I’ve dressed for the weather.”

Varsha Gyawali and Gavin Robey, both 32, enjoyed the party atmosphere in Princes Street.

Ms Gyawali, who had travelled from Nepal to see her boyfriend, said: “It is lovely here. I love Scottish people and everyone is so nice and friendly.”

Mr Robey, who works in the city but originates from Punjab, added: “This is the most amazing city in the UK. It is a full-on party and great fun for all.”

Some 80,000 people celebrated Hogmanay at the Street Party, Concert in the Gardens and the Keilidh, where 2,750 danced to Hugh MacDiarmid’s Haircut and Ceilidhdonia.

In Glasgow, the city council cancelled the late-night party to save money and experimented instead with a family day of curling on the ice rink in George Square, Scottish country dancing and ceilidh music. Saturday’s event ended at 10pm, one hour earlier than on the streets of Stornoway, where the festivities ended at 11pm, in deference to the Free Church of Scotland’s prohibition on celebrations and partying on the Sabbath.

Aberdeen hosted a massive fireworks display from the roof of His Majesty’s Theatre, while in Inverness the Red Hot Highland Fling party, hosted by the comedian Craig Hill, was the second biggest event after Edinburgh.

At Stirling Castle, visitors enjoyed performances by Eddi Reader and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, while in Stonehaven residents took part in the historic fireball procession. In Biggar in Lanarkshire, the Biggar Bonfire was lit.

Among the visitors to Scotland was Prince Charles and the Duchess of Rothesay, who spent Hogmanay at Birkhall, Deeside.

The festivities continued on New Year’s Day, when a record 60-plus swimmers braved Loch Ken in Galloway for the fundraising Ne’er swim. The population of Crossmichael, near Castle Douglas, almost doubled as crowds lined the banks of the loch.

The temperature was a balmy 7C, compared with –12C last year, when a JCB had to be brought in to break the ice.

Yesterday Jim McLellan, who started the swim 27 years ago, said: “It was a great turnout, and I think it’s the biggest yet. We collect money for the kids’ Christmas party and that’s how it started. Now people come from all over to take part, and it has raised thousands of pounds.”

Hogmanay was once again a busy night for the Scottish Ambulance Service, which dealt with 2,666 calls between midnight and 7am. Extra call-handers, dispatchers and ambulance crews were on duty. However, the number of calls was lower than the 3,141 last year.

Pauline Howie, chief executive, said: “A huge amount of detailed planning goes into making sure we are fully prepared for Hogmanay, and all of our staff, as always, did a tremendous job of responding to patients.”

In Edinburgh, the big clean-up began at 3am yesterday, with council staff clearing up 60-75 tonnes of refuse.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, from Lothian and Borders Police, said: “I would like to thank those who attended the street party for co-operating with police and stewards and helping us to ensure that the event was safe and enjoyable for everyone involved.

“We are pleased to have played our part in ensuring that this year has been yet another great success for Edinburgh. May I take this opportunity to wish everyone well for 2012, and we look forward to next year’s Hogmanay celebrations.”