Police protecting the Scottish Parliament to be armed with tasers
Police officer armed with taser - Image credit: POLICEDIVER2 via Flickr
Police officers protecting the Scottish Parliament are to be armed with tasers, it has been announced today.
The move comes in response to the attack on Westminster last week, although there is no specific threat against the Scottish Parliament.
The announcement came in a letter from Scottish Parliament chief executive Paul Grice to all staff based in the parliament this morning.
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He said: “Police Scotland will announce this morning that police officers carrying tasers will patrol the public area outside of the Scottish Parliament building with effect from today.
“Police Scotland has assured us that the move is an operational contingency measure and is not based on any intelligence threat in relation to the Parliament or Scotland.
“Following on from the Westminster attack, Police Scotland will undertake a review of its security arrangements at Holyrood.
“The results of that review will be reported to the SPCB [Scottish Parliament Corporate Body] for its consideration.
“I will keep all members and building users informed accordingly.”
However the Scottish Greens have expressed concern over the increased arming of police in Scotland.
Scottish Green Party justice spokesperson John Finnie MSP said: “Whilst it is disappointing to see tasers being issued to officers who patrol the Scottish Parliament, I accept that the decision has been made in response to recent events in London.
“Nevertheless, the case has yet to be made for officers across the country to routinely carry the weapon.
"I previously challenged Police Scotland over the deployment of armed officers on routine activities.
“I will write to Police Scotland seeking assurances that the deployment policy implemented in 2014 will be maintained and that armed police should only be used in firearms incidents or where there is a threat to life.
"If the current threat level reduces we must see a reduction in use of armed officers.”
This comes as the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) debated whether Scottish officers are sufficiently equipped to be able to deal with the terrorist threat at its annual conference at Turnberry.
The emergency motion brought forward in response to last week’s events says: “In light of the recent brutal and savage murder of Police Constable Keith Palmer in a terrorist attack, that Conference discusses the policing responses and readiness of the Police Service in Scotland to deal with the terror threat.
“Specifically that conference discusses whether the fight against terrorism risks being undermined by drastic cuts to the policing budget, the erosion of community based policing, and whether officers have sufficient personal protective equipment (including firearms) to be able to protect themselves in the event of a terrorist incident.”
SPF general secretary Calum Steele described the debate as a “very mature and sensible discussion” about the state of preparedness for the terrorist threat.
Steele said the debate went beyond the question of firearms and covered whether there were people in communities gathering intelligence and affirmed that the fight against terrorism starts with having police officers embedded in communities.
One message came over more strongly than any other, he said: “At this moment in time the expectations placed on police officers and the equipment provided for them is simply insufficient for the risks that they take to keep our communities safe.”