Water shame

HeadLine: WATER SHAME

The Mirror, 19/04/2002, p9
by SHAUN MILNE

VANDALS went on a wrecking spree at a multi-million pound tourist
attraction – just hours before senior cops host an anti-crime
celebration there.
Police chiefs are holding a glittering champagne reception for VIPs at
the Falkirk Wheel today to mark the first year of their Safer Central
Scotland campaign.
But staff spent most of yesterday mopping up after vandals used
bolt-cutters to open floodgates – sending millions of gallons of water
cascading into the £17million complex.
The Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, Andrew Cameron, will
still be joined by Justice Minister Jim Wallace MSP, today – but
insiders said the attack has left red faces all round.
One cop source told the Daily Mirror last night: “The boss is fuming,
he wanted this to be a showcase for the real success that Safer Central
has been – but now he’s being made to look daft.
“He’s going to have 150 members of Scotland’s high society listening to
him go on about how good we’ve become at preventing crime, while all
the while Jim Wallace and co are going to be munching soggy sarnies
because of these vandals.
“Heads will roll once we’ve tracked them down – and, believe me, we’ve
been told in no uncertain terms that they must be found.”
The vandals struck at 2am yesterday – just days after contractors
completed the massive rotating boatlift which links the Forth & Clyde
and Union Canals.
It is understood they used bolt cutters to prise open padlocks on the
gates of two canal locks high above the huge wheel – the only one of
its kind in the world.
The torrent swamped vital electrical and hydraulic equipment and
scarred the landscaped hillside next to the 115ft structure.
At one point the visitor centre – where the police event takes place –
was almost flooded as water lapped around door entrances.
The Falkirk Wheel and the Union Canal are part of the £84.5m Millennium
Link project which is restoring the waterways coast-to-coast across
central Scotland.
Last night experts were trying to assess the damage – believed to run
to more than £500,000 – as the race began to have the wheel repaired.
British Waterways director Jim Stirling said he hoped the complex would
be ready for the Queen who is due to visit on May 24 as part of her
50th Jubilee celebrations.
But he admitted there was a major doubt about the site being open to
the public as planned on May 1.
Mr Stirling said: “Everyone here is heartbroken. Everything was just
about finished and we’re appalled at this wanton vandalism.
“The Falkirk Wheel is set to be a visitor attraction of international
standing.
“What on earth were these people thinking of?”
Mr Stirling said the cost of the massive flooding were still being
assessed.
But he vowed: “We will be pulling out all the stops to be ready in time.
“I doubt if there’s a threat to the opening by the Queen but we may
struggle to open on May 1.”

**



Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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