Scottish Police Authority report into armed police “misses the point”, says Advocate


Review into Police Scotland’s firearms policy has mixed findings

A SCOTTISH Police Authority review into the routine arming of police officers is “missing the point”, a leading human rights advocate says.

The SPA today released its findings into the controversial policy, which Police Scotland rolled back last year after it came under wide criticism.

Central to the report was the results of a poll commissioned by the SPA which found that 53 per cent of Scots backed the policy.

However, according to advocate Niall McLuskey, who specialises in policing, the survey is “inconclusive” and the SPA “can’t deflect from recent criticism of themselves with an opinion poll”.

Speaking to CommonSpace, McLuskey said: “The SPA have to show that they can properly monitor the police as is their duty and a survey such as this just does not cut it. The fact is that serious concerns were raised about Police Scotland’s armed policy and in the end they were forced into a u-turn. This survey does not dispel the serious concerns which existed.”

Out of 200 individuals and organisations who responded to the SPA’s call for evidence, almost all of them expressed concern about the policy of routinely armed police.

The policy came to prominence in April 2013 after pictures emerged of armed officers in the Highlands and in shopping centres.

Later, in October, Police Scotland backtracked and said they would stop deploying armed officers to routine calls and incidents – except where there is a risk to life.

Since its formation Police Scotland has been accused of taking a more ‘macho’ approach to policing with policies such as stop and search (click here for more) and the carrying of firearms. It has also been criticised for failing to taking local sensitivities properly into account.

SPA member Iain Whyte, who chaired the committee, said: “The views we have gathered provide reassurance about the levels of confidence the Scottish public have in our armed police officers and the contribution they make. But our findings also clearly demonstrate the mixed and divergent views that the issue of deployment to more routine calls and incidents generated among some areas and some sectors of society.”

The SPA report does reccomend that Police Scotland should ensure that “all operational polices are subject to community impact assessments and to ensure that ‘equal’ access to specialist services is not automatically interpreted as the ‘same’ access to such services”.

The report goes on to say that the SPA and wider community should be consulted on the development of future police strategies and policies, particularly over guns.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McIness said: “The SPA’s wider reflection on the handling of this issue shows that armed policing is a test case of “operational responsibility. Much more work needs to be done to set out the operational boundaries and responsibilities if scrutiny is to be effective.”

Picture courtesy of Dave Connor