Vandals have set fire to Edinburgh’s war memorial on the Royal Mile – just hours after people gathered for Remembrance Sunday.
Wreaths and poppies laid outside the City Chambers were blackened by the blaze, which was started at around 5am on Monday morning.
Police condemned the vandalism and said they were studying CCTV footage to find those responsible.
Robert Aldridge, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, said: “It was my honour to lay a wreath on behalf of the City of Edinburgh to remember those who served and sacrificed so much.
“The vandalism discovered this morning, not only to the recently laid wreaths, but also Edinburgh’s Stone of Remembrance, is disgusting and disrespectful.
“We remain at a loss for the reasons someone could do something like this, which has caused a lot of upset for everyone who respects the memories of all who serve their country.
“We have reported this to the police and would urge anyone who knows anything about what happened to contact them.”
The act of vandalism came just hours after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those who laid wreaths of poppies at what she called a “particularly poignant” Remembrance Sunday event in Edinburgh as Scotland stood silent to remember the fallen.
Sturgeon tweeted on Monday: “Utterly beyond comprehension that someone would vandalise a war memorial on Remembrance Day – sickening and disgraceful. I hope those responsible are identified and brought to justice.”
Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP Miles Briggs described the vandalism as “an absolutely appalling insult towards our fallen war heroes”.
He said: It is totally disgraceful that less than 24 hours after typically poignant Remembrance Sunday services in the capital that moronic idiots would engage in burning tributes that had been laid for our soldiers.
“It is a show of total disrespect towards those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
“Sadly, attacks on war memorials like this are on the increase in Scotland, which is why the Scottish Conservatives are bringing forward plans to impose tougher penalties on those who attack war memorials.
“That will ensure that they are better protected for future generations to continue to pay their respects.”
Officials, veterans, members of the Armed Forces and the public gathered at the stone of remembrance outside the City Chambers on Sunday, the first such gathering since all Covid restrictions were lifted.
Members of the three branches of the Armed Forces marched down the Royal Mile before a short service took place, led by Reverend Calum MacLeod.
Dr Claire Armstrong, chief executive of Legion Scotland, said: “We are appalled by this absolutely senseless act of vandalism. These wreaths were laid in memory of the men and women who sacrificed their lives, and this destruction shows a complete lack of respect for everything they and the Stone of Remembrance stand for.
“This will be extremely upsetting for all the veterans, serving personnel and family members who paid their respects yesterday, especially those who have lost loved ones.
“It is also a huge blow for the veterans with disabilities at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory, who have put their hearts and souls into making these tributes over the last few months.
“We will be doing everything we can to assist Police Scotland with their investigation of this matter.”
Officers are carrying out inquiries and gathering CCTV footage to find out more information on whoever is responsible.
Chief inspector Murray Tait, local area commander said: “Our enquiries are ongoing after poppy wreaths were set on fire at the war memorial in High Street, Edinburgh around 5am on Monday, November 14.
“I utterly condemn this appalling act of vandalism, especially at this time of year when remembrance services have just been held across the country.
“If anyone has any information that will assist our investigation, please contact officers through 101 with reference number 601 of November 14.”