VANDALS who snapped a tree which was planted just three months ago to remember soldiers who returned from the First World War have been branded “utter scum”.

The damage to the tree, which was planted to mark 100 years since the return of the 1/8 Royal Scots, is the latest in a series of incidents, which has led to a Haddington councillor calling for something to be done to tackle the behaviour of “a small and mindless minority”.

The common lime tree, located at a grassy area off the town’s Station Road, was damaged some time between Saturday and Monday.

The incident has attracted severe criticism from the community, including John Hamilton, from the town’s community council, and Councillor Craig Hoy.

Mr Hamilton, who was heavily involved in a series of events marking various centenary milestones from the war, took part in the ceremony to plant the tree at the end of April and described the vandals as “utter scum”.

He said: “I have not had anybody yet come back and say they saw any suspicious behaviour.

“There has been nothing like that unfortunately.

“I thought there might have been somebody given it is quite a public location with passing traffic.”

The tree, complete with a plaque, was unveiled during a poignant ceremony, which was attended by representatives of the town’s community council, as well as members of Haddington Pipe Band and John Kinnaird, Deputy Lord Lieutenant for East Lothian.

A plaque bears the message: “This tree marks the 100 years’ anniversary of the return of the 1/8 Royal Scots, on the 30th April 1919, from their active duty in the Great War”.

A small shrub could be put in its place ahead of a new tree being planted later this year.

The incident had also upset Mr Hoy, who highlighted a number of other anti-social incidents during the summer.

He said: “To think anyone would want to vandalise a tree planted to honour the memory of local men who returned from the Great War leaves me speechless.

“What sort of individual thinks this is in any way acceptable and where has the principle of respect gone?”

Mr Hoy said there were a number of incidents being brought to his attention.

He said: “Often these incidents involve youngsters and alcohol. While this in no way reflects the reality of life for most people in the town, it is serious enough to reflect badly on the town and it’s time to act.”

Mr Hoy recently met with the local authority’s anti-social behaviour unit and plans to meet with police next week to see what else can be done to tackle anti-social behaviour in the town.

A spokeswoman for the local authority confirmed a replacement tree would be planted but it was unlikely to be until “later in autumn/winter” due to arboricultural reasons.

Police Constable Charlie Duncan, the Haddington and Lammermuir ward officer, said the police were working with East Lothian Council to target anti-social behaviour.

He added: “We are stepping up patrols in that area.”