Police Scotland is supporting local communities across West Lothian with a range of specialist resources to keep people safe around Bonfire Night.

Operation Moonbeam was launched in 2018 in response to high levels of public disorder and violence witnessed during the same period a year earlier.

This resulted in lower levels of disorder in 2018 and 2019 and similar resources will be in place this year to reassure communities and tackle criminal activity.

With organised bonfire events cancelled across Scotland in light of the coronavirus pandemic, anyone planning their own garden bonfire is urged to be considerate towards neighbours and pets when setting off fireworks.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs, Gold Commander for Operation Moonbeam, said: “Typically, the Bonfire Night weekend, and surrounding days, are extremely busy for police and other emergency services.

“While the cancellation of public bonfire displays and the coronovirus restrictions in place is likely to result in a slight reduction in the number of people out and about, we cannot be complacent in terms of preserving public safety.

“Divisional Commanders will be given significant levels of specialist resource, including public order trained officers, to supplement their local policing teams and help them address any issues that arise.

“The police alone cannot tackle anti-social behaviour and bonfire-related disorder. We are once again taking a tri-service approach with the other emergency services, aimed at not only responding successfully to reports of criminality, but preventing them in the first instance.

“We have been engaging with young people extensively through our school inputs to highlight the risks associated with reckless behaviour involving fireworks and of course, alcohol.

“Parents and guardians of young people also have a vital role to play and I would ask you all have very frank conversations with those in your care about the risks of getting involved in violence and disorder.

“Let me be clear, any behaviour that puts our communities at risk, or endangers the safety of our officers and other emergency service personnel, will not be tolerated.

“The Chief Constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing to aid the collective effort of staying safe, protecting others and saving lives by preventing the virus from spreading.

“While the vast majority of communities across Scotland are co-operating with the existing restrictions, a small number are still intent on hosting or participating in parties and gatherings with other households.

“These are not confined to certain age groups and people should not be in any doubt that house gatherings allow the virus to spread. Where we encounter wilful, repeated, persistent or flagrant breaches we will, as the public would expect and support, act decisively to enforce the law.”

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer (DACO) Alasdair Perry is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Head of Prevention and Protection.

He said: “First and foremost we would urge all of our communities to follow advice and guidelines around social distancing to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“With many public events cancelled due to COVID-19, we know people may consider hosting their own firework events.

“But we want to highlight that the private use of fireworks can be dangerous- and that children are particularly at risk.

“We are therefore strongly encouraging anyone who does wish to host a private event to reduce the risk by ensuring to familiarise themselves with our fireworks code and fire safety guidance. Do not take risks because the consequences can be devastating.

“This is already a traditionally busy period of the year for ourselves and our partners and it is very important that we maintain an ability to respond to other emergencies.

“We know it’s a very small minority of people who engage in anti-social behaviour, but there’s no question it can impact on our firefighters and Operations Control colleagues as well as our partners.

“A deliberate fire can also put property, resources and indeed lives at risk so it goes without saying that we will always take a zero-tolerance approach to fire-setting and attacks on our crews.”

“For more information visit our fireworks safety page: https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/fireworks-safety.aspx”

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham added: “Halloween and Bonfire Night this year are going to feel very different and at this usual time for celebration I urge everyone to follow the rules on meeting up with other households to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We know that some people may consider setting off fireworks in their back-gardens, if you do plan on using fireworks this Bonfire Night please do so responsibly and safely. We are asking families to avoid guising this year but our newly published Parent Club guidance has lots of fun and creative ideas for families to enjoy a safe celebration at home.

“Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and all emergency service workers have my complete support, particularly over the busy bonfire season.”

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