Scotland politics

Danny Alexander calls for meeting with chief constable over armed police

Police Scotland firearms officers Image copyright Police scotland
Image caption Councillors have raised concerns that Police Scotland officers have been armed in the Highlands

Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander has asked to meet Police Scotland's chief constable over the routine deployment of armed police in the Highlands.

The MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey requested the meeting over concerns that officers were carrying guns on routine patrols.

Mr Alexander has launched a petition against arming community police.

Police Scotland has said the deployment of armed officers was needed "to address a risk".

Mr Alexander's call for a meeting with Sir Stephen House follows a motion tabled at Highland Council that called for a review of the policy.

Councillors have questioned the need for officers to be routinely armed in an area with one of the lowest crime rates in the UK.

'Centralisation'

Mr Alexander, who is Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the UK government, said: "It is perfectly understandable that shoppers and revellers would be surprised to see officers with firearms on the beat.

"Clearly, people's concerns are about far more than poor communication from the SNP and Police Scotland. It's about meeting the needs and expectations of community policing in the Highlands.

"Those of us that opposed the centralisation of Scotland's police force feared the impact a one-size-fits-all approach would have.

"Now Police Scotland must prove that they have the flexibility needed to provide the sort of service that the Highlands needs and deserves."

The Liberal Democrat MP called on people in the Highlands to contact him with their experiences.

'Unlikely to change'

Strathclyde Police, Tayside Police and Northern Constabulary allowed specialist officers to carry guns routinely before the creation of a single force in Scotland.

Police Scotland has adopted the approach across the country since its launch in April last year and it has included the use of a small number of firearms officers in the Highlands.

Following a meeting with Highland councillors earlier this month, divisional commander Ch Supt Elaine Ferguson said the policy was unlikely to change.

She said armed police deployments were an operational decision made by the chief constable and there was not a requirement to consult publicly on the move.

"I cannot say it will never change, but it's there to address a risk that is there," added Ch Supt Ferguson.

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