Council bans ‘misinformed’ tree protests

Friday August 25th 2023

Musselburgh Tree Ribbons

Some of the ribbons tied to trees in Musselburgh.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

East Lothian Council has ordered protesters to remove ribbons on trees in Musselburgh by the end of the month as it hits back at a campaign of ‘misinformation’.

Around 150 trees in the town have been tagged with fabric bands with links to Musselburgh Flood Protection Action Group’s Facebook page and the message ‘pause the scheme’.

The action group is opposed to current proposals to tackle the flood risks facing East Lothian’s biggest town arguing that there are more ‘natural, ecological solutions’ which should be looked into

The local authority said it had received complaints about the tree ribbons which had caused ‘distress’ to some people who may have believed the trees which were targeted were at risk of being removed as part of the scheme.

It said: “Whilst the council acknowledges that some people in Musselburgh have strong feelings relating to the proposed flood protection scheme it is concerned about inappropriate behaviour in making public statements.

“In addition to trees there has also been material attached to street furniture, including memorial benches, which has resulted in some personal distress.”

East Lothian Council’s Head of Infrastructure, Tom Reid, said if the protest material was not removed by the deadline the local authority would step in and take them down.

He said: “I have been advised that the ribbons which have been placed around the trees in Musselburgh without permission are trapping dampness which can damage the tree bark and in turn adversely affect the health of the trees.

“We are issuing an open appeal asking those who have added these ribbons to remove them by 31st August or the council will remove them following this date.”

The council also pointed out an ‘Initial Vision of the Outline Design’ of the scheme was presented to the public in June 2023 and did not indicate an impact on most of the trees that have been ‘tree dressed’.

They added: “The council understands that these trees may only have been marked in such a way so as to symbolise the trees that may be affected by the scheme.

“However these actions are misinformed and are leading to unwarranted concerns and fears amongst local residents.”

Heather Finlay of the Facebook Group Musselburgh Flood Protection Action Group who organised the tree ribbons wrote to Colin Beattie MSP regarding them. She posted his reply on the Facebook group. He said:

“Whilst of course we all the have the right to highlight our plights, and to protest against which we believe to be unfair or unjust, I believe that the ribbons are an inappropriate way to do this. I have had reports that the ribbons have caused distress, particularly those tied to memorial benches where people often go to remember loved ones no longer with us.”

Melanie Gallacher, also of the action group, replied to Mr Beattie’s response saying:

“I really hope that the people who are distressed by a few strips of fabric are the same people who will be offended at covering the river banks with tonnes of tarmac and concrete, the introduction of huge walls and the destruction of hundreds of trees. You SHOULD be offended!”

Details of the scheme and its progress can be found at

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