Sturgeon and police ‘must share blame’ for disorder
Fans letting off flares in Glasgow city centre
Businesses have accused the police and Scottish government of failing to prevent mayhem involving Rangers football fans while they have spent thousands of pounds abiding by strict distancing rules.
Furious restaurateurs and bar owners accused reckless fans of potentially forcing the city to remain for longer in level three lockdown.
But they said senior police officers and ministers, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, must share responsibility for the trouble as fans were allowed to congregate in the city centre despite warnings it had been planned.
Supporters celebrating Rangers’ first premiership win in a decade marched from Ibrox Stadium into the city centre where the “partying” continued into the night in breach of rules over large outdoor gatherings.
They let off flares and threw missiles in George Square which was left strewn with rubbish.
Businesses were forced to remove pavement tables and shut early as they feared disorder and many said the behaviour of the supporters and failure of the authorities to stop it made a mockery of the Covid restrictions and was an insult to those who were complying with them.
Fans gathered in George Square
Police Scotland said three officers were injured and there had been a number of arrests with more to follow. Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said investigations were continuing and further arrests would be made in the coming weeks.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “To say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement.”
She added: “In normal times, the violence and vandalism and the vile anti-Catholic prejudice that was on display would have been utterly unacceptable. But mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was also selfish beyond belief.”
Ms Sturgeon said she hoped Rangers would “reflect on what more must be done to tackle this behaviour by fans, albeit a minority”.
To say I’m utterly disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city would be an understatement– Nicola Sturgeon
She added: “However, ultimate responsibility lies with those who behaved in such a thuggish, sectarian and selfish manner. And that’s why we must let the police do their job.”
Ch Supt Mark Sutherland, Police Scotland’s Divisional Commander for Greater Glasgow, said in a statement: “Our policing response has been proportionate. We have responded appropriately and consistently to the behaviour of those gathered.
“This disgraceful behaviour which clearly endangered public and officer safety could not be tolerated and officers dressed in full public order equipment after appropriate warnings were given, moved in to disperse those present.
“Although most of those present dispersed, a number remained and confronted officers with violence and aggression. Missiles were thrown and officers came under direct attack as George Square and the surrounding area was cleared.”
However, the response of the police and Ms Sturgeon was not enough for small business owners who said the celebrations were not only predictable but had been widely promoted by fans on social media.
The Union Bears fan group had announced plans to walk from the stadium to George Square.
Some business owners felt football fans and players were being given a “free pass” while everyone else was paying a heavy price.
Mario Arcari, director of La Vita Restaurants, said on LinkedIn: “Had to shut. Staff and myself threatened. Virtually no police presence. But you can’t have a glass of wine with your dinner. Silence from Nicola is deafening.”
Property investor Barry Wilson said: “It’s shocking that this can go on but I can’t open my pubs on Monday to allow my regulars in for a beer and a natter one metre apart.”
James van Beusekom, a business solutions adviser, said: “It’s the knock on effect of this that will now likely happen.
“I feel so sorry for those who make a living in hospitality as they seem to be the fall guys and girls that are “punished” for such mindless behaviour.
“Their ability to earn a living is likely going to be restricted for an even longer period as it seems to continue to be a soft target to pick on by the Scottish Government during this pandemic.”
Christopher Fleming, a senior account executive at Open Table, said: “Stopping people having a glass of wine with dinner but allowing this is the most inept act to date and falls at Nicola Sturgeon’s door.”
Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, said Glasgow was in a “fragile” place and it was “disappointing to see people break the rules, in whatever setting and for whatever reason”.
He said: “This virus has not gone away – we’re not joking, we’re not pretending – it’s absolutely real.
“And the risk, particularly now in Glasgow, is quite high and Glasgow is fragile.
“You’ve seen us make an enormously difficult decision this week on our advice that has kept a bit of Glasgow in the same level.
“It feels like a tough day to watch that yesterday if you are a business owner or a family waiting for lunch or dinner.”