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Community / Up Helly Aa policing strategy declared a success despite misgivings

THE NEW strategy for policing Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa has been a success, according to the islands’ area commander Stuart Clemenson.

Police Scotland introduced the requirement for stewards and press to wear hi-vis jackets, while the road traffic act, including wearing seat belts on squad buses, had to be observed at all times.

The voluntary committee organising the famous annual fire festival, which was held last Tuesday, however made no qualms about their frustration with the new regime which also saw a significantly higher visibility of police during the morning and evening processions.

Last week’s Lerwick Up Helly Aa bill. Photo: Shetland News

The general feeling was that police interfered unnecessarily in what has been a well-managed and safe event for many years.

Although not directly named in the Up Helly Aa bill, which pokes fun on local dignitaries and events, the newly appointed chief inspector featured prominently.

“Beware of an incoming uninvited Scot squad of uneducated numpty guizers in diced caps and Hi-Viz jackets, throwing its weight around chiefly in ignorance of our well-practiced ways. (12 months of erroneous preconception is no substitute for over 140 years of well-founded and successfully developed management),” the bill read.

And: “Ex-Jarls’ comment: ‘Come back fae Bressay, Lindsay Tulloch [the previous area commander] – right away;  All is forgiven!’”

Clemenson, who took up his new post exactly a year ago, said he had as many as 20 officers out on patrol to ensure the safety of the squads as well as the many thousands of spectators.

He said that from his perspective the new safety system implemented during the planning and delivery phase of the festival worked very well.

“My officers and members of the public were able to clearly identify a proportion of the stewards who were assisting the UHA committee and other emergency services to deliver a safe event,” he said.

“The event passed with only some minor incidents mainly involving trips and falls or sparks in people’s eyes.”

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