Temperatures in Edinburgh reached 16 degrees on Saturday, with Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ order lifted on Friday, meaning residents were free to go out without having a specific reason to do so.
However, outdoor gatherings are still limited to four people from two households, and it became clear on Saturday that larger groups were congregating at the Meadows.
Beyond the breaching of the restrictions, video footage also emerged of physical fighting between several young men.
Police officers, who were called to a number of incidents throughout the day, have condemned the disorder and stated that zero tolerance will be shown.
One officer was hospitalised as a result of an injury sustained at the park.
Three individuals have since been charged.
A third-year student who was at the Meadows on Saturday told The Student that the situation there “wasn’t that surprising”, noting that factors including the current restrictions and the sunny weather caused “the perfect storm”.
She described the situation in the Meadows on Saturday evening as “complete chaos”.
Of the incidents themselves, she said, “It was largely groups of young teenagers…as the evening went on, they became increasingly more aggressive and rude in their behaviour – it was quite intimidating.”
However, she was not particularly impressed by the response of police officers, saying that she appreciated the difficulties but felt that they did not take much action to control the situation.
The student questioned the logic behind allowing drinking to take place in public parks while beer gardens are still shut, feeling that it would “probably be safer to open [the beer gardens] and encourage responsible and safe drinking”.
The Student also spoke to Matt McPherson, a mature student and former police officer.
“I was frankly disgusted by the antisocial behaviour, littering, and violence towards the police we saw at the Meadows over the weekend,” he said, “Sadly, this was an inevitable consequence of Edinburgh’s first taste of nice weather and general fatigue of lockdown restrictions.”
Though the fighting may be a shocking incident to have reportedly taken place on the Meadows in recent weeks, it is not the first time rule-breaking behaviours in the park and other outdoor spaces in Edinburgh have caused concern.
In his spring break message, the University of Edinburgh’s Vice-Principal Students Professor Colm Harmon urged students not to “jeopardise [their] aspirations” in favour of activity which goes against pandemic restrictions.
He also warned students of a heightened police and campus security presence in the coming weeks, owing to Police Scotland’s assessment of a greater risk of anti-social behaviour.
As well as the breaching of lockdown restrictions, littering is a well-known problem.
“Those who use the Meadows and live nearby – like me – know that littering is a scandal every year – and as a former police officer I think a more rigorous approach to enforcement is long overdue. There is simply no excuse for people abandoning their litter for others to pick up.”
He was keen to praise local authority workers, saying:
“Our local council workers and police officers have once again shown their professionalism despite unprecedented and demanding circumstances.”
Image: Ian Rankin