SANTA CLAUS has been given increased police protection after being attacked by brick- throwing youths.

Pensioner Andy Stein, 69, had dressed in the traditional red outfit and white beard of Father Christmas for Airdrie Round Table's Santa sleigh run on Sunday.

It was an attempt to raise festive spirits as well as funds for good causes. But police were forced to step in after a heavy object was thrown at Santa's sleigh as he toured the streets of the North Lanarkshire town.

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Mr Stein was not hurt in the incident, but was left shaken and somewhat lacking festive cheer.

He said: "I'm disgusted with it. That's nine years I've been doing that run and I'm getting an old man now.

"For that to happen with the children of the street there, it's diabolical.

"I'm not the timorous type but I couldn't settle down for an hour afterwards. But as they say, the show must go on."

Mr Stein said he is determined to continue visiting housing estates across Airdrie and Coatbridge. He said: "It certainly won't put me off – absolutely no chance. I'm going to keep going as long as I can."

Police officers were accomp-anying Mr Stein on his rounds because of an incident last year, but after this latest attack it has been decided to step up his protection.

Gordon Millar, chairman of the Round Table in Airdrie, said: "Last year we were ambushed by about 20 or 30 youths in the Petersburn area, so we obviously had that in our minds.

"We had police accompanying us this year.

"When the incident happened on Sunday there were parents out with their kids to see Santa and we had the police with us.

"You really wonder what goes on in the minds of some people. They could have hit Santa or any of those children.

"Thankfully no-one was hurt but Santa got a real fright. We think it was a brick or something like that, we just heard a really loud bang and then saw the police officers starting to run.

"You'll never see a better Santa than Mr Stein; he starts growing his beard in August for this.

"It was really disheartening, and people from Petersburn are disgusted as well. We've been getting so much support on our Facebook page from people in the area. It's a minority that ruin it for everyone."

The Santa run was cut short and the volunteers have had to add an extra day to their schedule.

A spokeswoman from Strathclyde Police, said: "At 4.50pm on Sunday an object was thrown at Santa on his sleigh at Oronsay Road in Airdrie.

"Police are following a positive line of inquiry. Extra attention has been given because of the incident."

Santa has been visiting streets across Airdrie and Coatbridge for 30 years, raising money for local charities, people and projects in the community.

The Airdrie and Coatbridge arm of the Round Table – a volunteer-led organisation – aims to raise £10,000 a year from the sleigh ride and has, to date, raised £200,000.

Kirsten Johnson