Council leaders oppose armed police on routine patrols

Police Scotland firearms officers Image copyright Police scotland
Image caption The use of armed police has been rolled out across Scotland

Council leaders have opposed the policy of allowing police officers to carry guns while on routine patrol.

Some officers were given a standing authority to carry guns following the creation of a single Scottish force.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) agreed to the principle that officers should not carry firearms on regular duties.

A report criticised a lack of consultation and the effect on the public's perception of the force.

Strathclyde Police, Tayside Police and Northern Constabulary allowed specialist officers to carry guns on routine patrol before the creation of the new single force.

The approach was adopted across the country in April last year.

Earlier this year by independent MSP and former Northern Constabulary officer John Finnie raised concerns about the rollout of the policy.

Visible handguns

Highland councillors have also questioned the deployment of officers visibly carrying handguns in routine incidents in a region with low levels of violent crime.

The Cosla report, backed unanimously by council leaders meeting in Edinburgh, invited them to agree "to the principle that police officers should not carry firearms on regular duties".

It also asked leaders to agree to write to Police Scotland to seek clarification and respond to three separate reviews of the policy being carried out by Police Scotland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority.

The report accepts that the deployment of armed officers is an operational matter decided by the chief constable.

But it notes that there is "no clear recourse for local government, or indeed Scottish government, to hold the chief constable to account" if there is dissatisfaction.

It also suggests inviting Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House to a meeting with council leaders.

Police Scotland has said that it has 275 firearms officers - 1.6% of the force's personnel - and they are deployed on a shift pattern basis.

For every 1,000 officers there will be 10 officers armed and on shift.

These specialist officers carry a Taser stun gun and a holstered handgun.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Decisions on the use of resources, including armed police officers, are clearly a matter for the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.

"However, it is important there is appropriate oversight to ensure transparency in decision making and to reassure the public and Parliament, which is why scrutiny of Police Scotland is in place through the statutory role of the SPA as well as the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and HMICS.

"In addition, the Parliament's Justice Sub-Committee on Policing is able to scrutinise all aspects of policing in Scotland and is currently looking at the issue of armed policing in more detail."

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