Police called amid reports of hundreds attending all-night parties on St Andrews beaches

(C) DC ThomsonThe West Sands.

Police were called to break up groups of revellers in St Andrews on Monday night amid reports of all-night beach parties in breach of social distancing rules. Locals said hundreds of young people had gathered on all three of the town’s beaches, with the West Sands proving particularly busy. One man claimed the parties had involved drinking, music, lights and bonfires and had lasted several hours.

Police confirmed they dispersed a large group of people near the West Sands at around 9.35pm and witnesses said officers were later called to the Castle Sands, beneath the castle ruins. The incidents have caused alarm in the town, where many had previously expressed anxieties about thousands of students returning to university.

St Andrew’s Castle, which overlooks Castle Sands.

While it is has not been confirmed the parties involved St Andrews students, the university has already warned it may take disciplinary action against anyone breaching strict Covid rules. It said on Tuesday it believed the vast majority of students were complying.

Councillors confirmed  they were satisfied the university was doing all it could to ensure regulations were adhered to, but described the incidents as troubling and disappointing. Callum MacLeod, chairman of St Andrews Community Council, said he was very concerned and added: “If students, or indeed anyone, are not going to take a hint then far more serious action will regrettably have to be taken.” Conservative councillor Dominic Nolan said gatherings on the beach with bonfires were a regular problem.

“These nuisance parties are unacceptable even under normal circumstances but are particularly irresponsible when we all need to observe physical distancing,” he said. Labour councillor Brian Thomson said all four St Andrews councillors had met with university officials on Monday to discuss arrangements put in place for the arrival of students. “It’s clear the university has gone to great lengths to try to keep both students and residents as safe as possible,” he said.

“Furthermore, the university has established a well-resourced response team and put thorough procedures in place, to respond to any reported incidents. “If a party of the scale reported has taken place on the West Sands, that’s obviously very disappointing, but the university has been absolutely clear that any breaches of Covid-19 guidance, whether on university property or around the town, will be treated as a disciplinary matter.” A university spokesman said beach parties and barbecues were common among students, residents and visitors.

“We are working very closely with Police Scotland, and the reports we have received indicate the vast majority are observing public health guidelines…and behaving responsibly,” he said. “This is an incredibly difficult period for students, not just in St Andrews but across the country. “They have experienced a year like no other, far more than their fair share of disruption.

“It is so important that while we remain cautious and prudent, and encourage our students to observe safe behaviour, we empower and support them to show what they can do during these enormously restrictive times.”

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