Nicola Sturgeon has condemned the “infuriating and disgraceful” celebrations in Glasgow as she urged Rangers FC to ask people to go home.
Thousands of fans have flouted the coronavirus lockdown to gather in the streets and celebrate Rangers winning the Scottish Premiership – their first top-flight title in 10 years. The mass gatherings have been widely condemned, and the first minister warned the celebrations could jeopardise plans to ease coronavirus restrictions.
However, fans continued to pack into George Square and congregate outside Ibrox stadium.
Shortly after 5pm, Police Scotland said a “small number” of arrests had been made and that officers at the scene had been encouraging fans to return home. But by 8pm, the crowds had not dispersed, despite the police herding hundreds of people away from the stadium along Paisley Road West.
Sturgeon tweeted: “I share folks’ anger at this. Everyone has made so many sacrifices in the past year and seeing a minority risk our progress is infuriating and disgraceful.
“It is deeply unfair to the entire country, and the police have a hard enough job already. Please ask fans to go home Rangers FC.”
The club’s account has tweeted or retweeted 52 times in the six hours since it was crowned champions, but not specifically addressed the mass gathering of fans.
Meanwhile, in Belfast, where Rangers have a strong following, a large crowd gathered on the Shankill Road to celebrate the win despite a ban on public gatherings under coronavirus restrictions. Earlier, the PSNI tweeted urging fans to celebrate safely. “We would encourage anyone intending to celebrate today’s Scottish Premier League result to do so at home safely and within the current health regulations,” it tweeted.
Rangers supporter and DUP MP Gregory Campbell told fans: “No one is more delighted than myself to see this success for the Gers. It’s been a long road. But so has the battle against Covid. It would be a bad day for Northern Ireland Rangers fans if a hallmark of 55 league titles was to be fans in ICU beds rather than being able to cheer their team on to more success.”
Sturgeon had previously offered her congratulations to Rangers but warned that “gathering in crowds just now risks lives, and could delay exit from lockdown for everyone else. If those gathering care at all about the safety of others and the country, they will go home.”
Alan Irvine, 43, from Glasgow, was out celebrating with his daughter Katie, 12, and son Lewis, six.
“The atmosphere when [Rangers manager] Steven Gerrard appeared was amazing,” Irvine told the PA news agency. “He has now achieved a godlike status.
“This is the first title win of Lewis’s life and the first that Katie can remember as she was only a baby the last time. It was an amazing experience to see my children enjoy the success I experienced when I was a young Rangers supporter.
“As for any criticism, then I can only speak from what I have seen outside the Rangers training centre, and the absolute majority were wearing face coverings and adhering, as much as possible, to social distancing. In fact, I’ve seen less social distancing in some retailers.”