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Security stepped up at Scottish Parliament ahead of climate protests

By PA News

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Security is being stepped up at the Scottish Parliament as the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest group begins a new programme of climate change demonstrations.

Police told staff at the parliament building in Holyrood there were plans to “disrupt access to legislatures across the UK” on Tuesday next week.

Beginning on Friday, a “regional rebellion” over four days will see protests staged in cities around the country – including London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds – ahead of larger demonstrations on Tuesday.

Protests this weekend are expected to include roadblocks, marches, sit-ins, bike rides and picnics, with campaigners emphasising their ethos of “non-violent direct action”.

A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament told the PA news agency: “We were informed by Police Scotland of plans to disrupt access to legislatures across the UK on Tuesday September 1.

“Therefore Police Scotland will have an increased presence around the Parliament building in the lead-up to Tuesday.”

A spokeswoman for the House of Commons said: “The safety and security of everyone on the Parliamentary Estate is our top priority.

“For security reasons, we cannot provide details of our arrangements.”

A spokesman for XR’s Scottish branch said there were no specific plans for a demonstration outside Holyrood on Tuesday, but the group was planning other activities elsewhere in Scotland.

These would target government departments which have links to the fossil fuel industry, the spokesman said.

As part of the new programme of demonstrations, XR supporters will be encouraged to protest digitally and urged to phone their MPs and “institutions of power”.

Late on Thursday, two women were arrested when young XR protesters blocked a bridge by lying on the road in Bristol.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: “Two women were arrested on the Clifton Suspension Bridge at just before 11pm on suspicion of wilful obstruction of the highway and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

“They’ve been taken into custody. The bridge is now closed to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Police surround an Extinction Rebellion boat at an earlier street protest (PA)
Police surround an Extinction Rebellion boat at an earlier street protest (PA)

Dr Chris Newman, a GP and founder of Doctors for XR, told reporters on Thursday they were aware of the health risks of public gatherings and had cancelled previous protest plans.

He said: “Everyone in XR that I’ve spoken to is extremely mindful of the risks and we’re all concerned about health risks. That’s why we’re here, because climate change is a health issue as much as anything.

“So everyone will be pushing very hard for all XR participants to be obeying Government rules with social distancing, with them avoiding protests if they’re unwell, or if they have to isolate.”

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