Scotland

Police Federation conference to debate arming more officers

Police officers Image copyright Getty Images

Rank-and-file police officers in Scotland are expected to hold an emergency on debate whether more of their number should carry guns.

The discussion is expected at the Scottish Police Federation's annual conference on Tuesday.

It follows the terror attack on Westminster last week when four people were killed, including PC Keith Palmer.

SPF general secretary Calum Steele said there would be a focus on improving readiness for terror attacks.

The topic of arming more police officers was not originally on the agenda of the event, according to The Sunday Post.

However it reports that it is now a "racing certainty" to be examined following the events in London on Wednesday.

Mr Steele told BBC Scotland that the conference had taken on much more significance, given its timing less than a week after the attack.

He added: "It is inconceivable that in light of the events that have taken place in London over the past number of days, that delegates attending for the Scottish Police Federation conference would not be minded to have significant debates and discussions round about the state of readiness for policing in Scotland and how that is likely to impact on them as individuals."

He said one of the main considerations of any discussion was likely to centre on the resources available to police officers.

'Fight against terrorism'

"I have said repeatedly that the issue of firearms is a tactical response arguably towards the end of the scale and once something has taken place rather than trying to prevent and mitigate incidents in the first place," he added.

"Ultimately terrorism or the fight against terrorism does not start a few yards from the intended target, it starts with communities. And the importance of having police officers embedded in our communities, building trusting relationships, gathering intelligence and helping communities thrive is where the real fight against terrorism begins - and not by bolstering the numbers of tactical officers to deal with the event after it has taken place or as it is taking place.

"Surely it's much better to invest in the prevention than to invest in the response. Although in saying that, clearly it is vital that we have adequate tactical responses for the event of something going wrong as we saw in London."

Police Scotland announced last year that it would be increasing its number of firearms officers by around a third in response to the terror threat.

It came after the police federation warned that Scotland was "woefully under-equipped, under-resourced and under-prepared" for a major terror attack.

But the use of armed officers has been controversial in recent years, with the force revising its guidance following an outcry over officers with guns being spotted attending minor incidents.

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