Scotland fans ignore Covid rules to celebrate Euro 2020 qualification

Glasgow (AFP) –


Scotland fans sang on the streets, played bagpipes and flouted strict Covid-19 pandemic restrictions by gathering in a group and climbing a statue in Glasgow after the national football team qualified for a first major international tournament since 1998 on Thursday by beating Serbia to reach Euro 2020.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was one of the first to react to Scotland's 5-4 win on penalties in Belgrade, using her Twitter account to repost a video of herself celebrating the defeat of a political rival in the United Kingdom's parliamentary elections in December last year.

"Massive congratulations to (manager) Steve Clarke and the team," Sturgeon wrote after tweeting a string of Scottish flags. "After 22 years, @ScotlandNT men are off to a major tournament. What a lift for the country. Well done!"

Ryan Christie put Scotland in front early in the second half in the rain in Belgrade, but Luka Jovic's 90th-minute header sent the match into extra time and, with no more goals scored, a shoot-out was required.

The Scots kept their cool, however, with five perfect penalties and their celebrations started when goalkeeper David Marshall saved from Aleksandar Mitrovic.

In the town centre of Falkirk in central Scotland, where indoor gatherings between households are prohibited due to Covid-19 restrictions, fans cheered and sang the unofficial national anthem "Flower of Scotland" on the streets until the early hours of Friday.

In Glasgow, a group of around 50 fans were filmed celebrating the win by climbing a statue in George Square in the city centre shortly before midnight.

The video, published by newspaper The Herald, showed people embracing and singing songs such as "We'll be coming down the road" and "We've got Steve Clarke", in reference to Scotland's manager.

- 'Virus does not rest' -

"I understand that they're young and want to celebrate Scotland qualifying for their first major tournament in 22 years -- but we need to adhere to the guidelines," a witness told the newspaper.

In Edinburgh, the Scottish Sun newspaper showed a video of shirtless men dancing and singing on a rooftop, with one of them playing the bagpipes.

Meanwhile in the north of Scotland, where Covid-19 restrictions are less strict, groups were allowed to gather in pubs to watch the game but had to clear out before the 10:30 pm (2230 GMT) cut-off, which was just five minutes after the penalty shootout.

The police in the city of Aberdeen had to disperse a group at the Draft Project pub at 10:00 pm (2200 GMT).

"We are aware of footage circulating on social media following the Scotland game last (Thursday) night," Police Scotland chief inspector David Howieson said.

"Officers were on patrol within the city centre throughout the evening and in attendance at the premises in question where they supported staff who ejected a number of patrons following a spontaneous reaction to the first Scotland goal."

Susan Webb, director of public health for the Grampian region, said while she understood the desire to celebrate, the risks of coronavirus infection were still too high.

"I am aware of footage being shared on social media, apparently shot in licensed premises in Aberdeen during last night's Scotland match," she said.

"While I cannot comment on these specific circumstances, I can say this -- this virus does not rest."