Thousands of Rangers supporters who marched on Glasgow’s George Square to celebrate their club’s Scottish Premiership win, as the city faces a surge in Covid infections and an extension of lockdown, have been condemned as selfish, irresponsible and endangering lives.
Twenty people were arrested and police said three officers had been injured as the crowd became increasingly disorderly during Saturday afternoon, throwing missiles and flares at the police as they tried to disperse them.
Many Glaswegians expressed their disgust on social media at the chaotic scenes. They took place the day after Nicola Sturgeon announced that Glasgow would remain in level 3 of Covid controls for another week because of surging infection rates believed to be related to the variant first detected in India, as well as a travel ban on residents leaving the city.
Fans congregated in George Square throughout Saturday afternoon despite warnings about rising case numbers, and footage later showed the area strewn with broken glass and debris. There was a heavy presence of police and emergency services throughout the day.
Ch Supt Mark Sutherland, Police Scotland’s divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, described the behaviour as “disgraceful”. He said: “I strongly condemn the behaviour of these supporters who have not only placed our officers at risk but have sought to damage the image and reputation of this great city, especially during this critical period of the pandemic.”
He warned of further arrests, adding: “We will be continuing our inquiries and my message is clear that if you have been involved in these ugly scenes then you will be identified and arrested.”
The Scottish government’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, said that, while he understood the significance of the day for Rangers fans, he was “extremely disappointed” that supporters had once again ignored Covid regulations and chosen to gather in large numbers in Glasgow.
In March, the Scottish government criticised the football club’s response when thousands of fans gathered in similar fashion after Rangers were confirmed as title winners.
The club issued one tweet on Saturday encouraging fans to “celebrate in a safe and sensible manner” and disperse from the Ibrox stadium area.
Yousaf continued: “The rules are the same for everyone and the evidence is clear: when large numbers of people gather in close proximity, there is an increased risk of transmission. We are in a crucial and fragile stage in our fight against the virus, with a new variant and rising infection rates adding to the risks.
“This selfish and irresponsible behaviour endangers the lives of others: supporters, the police on duty and the wider community. I want to thank the police for the incredibly difficult job they are doing keeping our communities safe throughout the pandemic.”
He said the the Scottish government had already been in discussion with Rangers and would liaise with Police Scotland and the football authorities “to consider what further action can be taken”.
On Saturday, Sturgeon urged those who lived in or had recently visited the southside of Glasgow, her own constituency, to take a Covid test.
On Friday, Sturgeon said she expected accelerated vaccination to be part of the response to the Glasgow outbreak, which health officials believe has been driven by household mixing combined with the presence of the India variant, but that she was awaiting further JCVI advice on vaccine effectiveness in relation to the new variant before making the decision.