Scotland

Police investigate Alex Salmond bonfire effigy

Alex Salmond effigy Image copyright East Sussex Council
Image caption A photograph of one of the effigies was tweeted by East Sussex County Council

Police are investigating a complaint about effigies of Alex Salmond which were due to have been burnt at bonfire celebrations in an English town.

The two effigies of the Scottish first minister were withdrawn from the celebrations in Lewes after a storm of protest on social media.

Thousands of people attended the bonfire event in the East Sussex town.

The Waterloo Bonfire Society, which produced one of the models, said it had "no wish or intention to offend".

A Sussex Police statement said: "We are aware of the portrayal of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as an effigy at the 2014 Lewes Bonfire event and acknowledge that concerns have been raised.

"Whilst we accept there is a long tradition of creating effigies of high-profile individuals in politics, sport, the media, etc, a complaint has nevertheless been received and will be investigated."

The row began on Wednesday afternoon when East Sussex County Council tweeted a picture of one of the effigies of Mr Salmond, complete with a "Yes" badge, a sign saying "45%" and the Loch Ness monster looking over his shoulder.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A second effigy of Alex Salmond was also paraded through Lewes in Sussex

They faced an immediate backlash on Twitter with one user responding: "Can you imagine the uproar amongst Better Together campaigners had Yes supporters burned an effigy of David Cameron?"

Others posted the council's switchboard telephone number, and urged people to complain.

The council later clarified: "Please note that the Alex Salmond and Nessie models were created by Waterloo Bonfire Society #LewesBonfire and have NO connection to ESCC". The original tweet was removed.

Mr Salmond responded to the initial tweet by telling BBC Scotland he was "used to insults from Tories in East Sussex".

He questioned the judgement of those behind the effigy.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A rear view of the Alex Salmond effigy

But Mr Salmond, who will stand down as first minister and Scottish National Party leader next week, said he was more worried about Nessie, who was also to be burned.

Just before 21:00 on Wednesday, Sussex Police tweeted: "For those enquiring we have been advised that there won't be any burning of the Alex Salmond effigies this evening in Lewes."

In a statement, the Waterloo Bonfire Society said it had a "tradition of creating satirical tableaux in caricature based on topical local, national and international events".

It said: "It is a tradition which has endured for many years and is intended to portray familiar stories and characters in a light hearted way. Clearly the Scottish Referendum has been a big story in the news recently and Alex Salmond is high a profile figure.

"We are a traditional Sussex family bonfire society and have no political affiliations. We can assure that we have no wish or intention to offend and have never found ourselves in a position where we have done so in the past. To clarify we do not burn tableaux. They are incorporated into our firework display.

"In the light of the responses received to our tableau idea this year we have made the decision to withdraw it from our celebrations."

The Waterloo Bonfire Society is one of six which parade through the town every year. The societies all have their traditions, costumes, fire sites and fireworks. A second effigy of Mr Salmond was paraded through the Sussex town. by another bonfire society - the Commercial Square Bonfire Society.

An effigy of David Cameron holding a "puppet Nick Clegg" was burned in Lewes in 2010. Other effigies in previous years have included Osama Bin Laden.

The event is said to be one of the largest bonfire celebrations in the UK, with 45,000 people attending.

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