Trouble caused by pro-union supporters in Glasgow was brought to an end last night, after Her Majesy Queen Elizabeth II was lowered from a helicopter above the city’s George Square, and held tantalisingly just beyond the rioting crowd’s reach.
The group had descended on George Square early yesterday evening, waving Union flags and Better Together signs, and loudly singing God Save the Queen. Within minutes, rioters were seen to throw bottles onto the road and spit on passers by, before firing off Nazi-style salutes at nearby supporters of the Yes campaign for Scottish independence.
Police were quickly mobilised to contain the unrest, as flares were thrown and a number of windows were smashed. Mounted officers and those on foot attempted to form a cordon around the area, but as the loutish behaviour and violence escalated, Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable, Bernard Higgins, decided a new strategy was necessary to prevent further casualties and property damage.
At the request of Police Scotland, a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was despatched to Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, where members of the Royal Family have been staying recently.
Once at the castle, pilot Lieutenant Andrew Johnstone, secured the waiting Queen Elizabeth – who had been briefed by telephone from Glasgow – to the helicopter’s underside using a harness and high tensile rope.
From there, the helicopter raced south-west towards Glasgow, where violence had spilled over onto Buchanan Street. Carefully manoeuvering the Sea King above the rooftops, Lieutenant Johnstone (44) “waggled the queen about” in an attempt to draw the attention of those rioting below.
Her Majesty, dressed in an elegant white dress and crown, dangled limply less than a metre above the pro-union crowd, swinging to and fro like a pendulum while crying, “Save one, save one!” as per Police Scotland’s instructions.
Upon sighting the queen, members of the crowd – many of whom had brought their children – reached for her, clawing and grabbing at the air in their desperation. As rioters trampled over one another to be the first to touch Her Majesty, Lieutenant Johnstone was forced to climb sharply in order to keep her beyond their frantic grasping reach.
The RAF pilot – who recently served in Iraq – then manoeuvred the dangling queen further along Buchanan Street, causing the rioters to surge after her, squealing and trembling in barely-contained hysteria.
Fingers outstretched and eyes ablaze with ravenous excitement, the rioters followed Her Majesty along Sauchiehall Street, and then onto the M8 motorway. From there, the queen – her arms by this point hanging loosely by her sides and her face an ashen grey – was used to lead the crowd into Ibrox Stadium, the home of Rangers Football Club.
Once the pro-union rioters were inside the stadium, officers from Police Scotland acted quickly to close the gates, which were then were welded shut by officials from Glasgow City Council.
With the rioters contained, the now-unconscious Queen Elizabeth II was flown back to Balmoral, where she is understood to be “resting” this afternoon. It is not yet clear what will happen to the pro-unionists currently being held within Ibrox stadium, although Police Scotland has not yet ruled out the possibility of “a big fire”.
Meanwhile, members of children’s entertainment group, The Singing Kettle, who turned up at George Square to plead for calm last night, are said to be in a “critical but stable” condition at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary hospital.