Ministers face fresh call to set up Scottish inquiry into undercover policing

Written by Alan Robertson on 13 May 2016 in News

Labour MSP Neil Findlay lodges parliamentary motion as MSPs are sworn in for fifth session

Scottish Government ministers have faced fresh calls to launch a public inquiry into undercover policing within 24 hours of MSPs returning to Holyrood.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay lodged a parliamentary motion urging a separate inquiry should the UK Government refuse to extend an existing probe south of the border.

Home Secretary Theresa May last year established a public inquiry, led by Lord Justice Pitchford, to examine undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968, a decision that prompted calls for the probe to include Scotland as well.


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The inquiry's launch followed controversy regarding the conduct of undercover officers amid allegations some officers formed sexual relationships with activists and used fake identities from dead children.

Should the inquiry not be extended north of the border, Findlay said the Scottish Government “should set up its own inquiry so that all UK citizens, including those in Lothian who have been affected by what it considers this scandal, can have the opportunity to get to the truth”.

The MSP’s motion, lodged on the same day he was sworn in following his re-election, says the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) of the Metropolitan Police “operated in Scotland, keeping political, environmental, trade union and other activists under surveillance using unethical and often illegal methods”.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson wrote to the Home Secretary last December calling for the inquiry to be widened to “take evidence relating to undercover operations in Scotland authorised by and carried out by English and Welsh police forces as part of a national operation”.

It followed claims that some undercover officers spied on activists in the run-up to the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005.

A Scottish Government spokesman confirmed an initial response had been received from the Home Office and that discussions are “ongoing”.

The SDS, which fell under the Met’s Special Branch until being shut down in 2008, saw undercover officers deployed to infiltrate radical political or social causes.

Last November the Met made an “unreserved apology” to seven women who were deceived into having relationships with officers over a 25-year period stretching back to the 1980s.

Police Scotland chief constable Phil Gormley, the commander responsible for Special Branch in 2006, has said he knew “nothing at all” of the allegations when he took over in 2006. Gormley has said he will cooperate fully with the inquiry being chaired by Lord Pitchford.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Discussions concerning extending the Pitchford Inquiry to cover the activities of the Metropolitan Police units in Scotland are ongoing.”  

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