Police Scotland's armed police move 'unlikely' to change

Police Scotland firearms officers Specialist firearms officers carry a Taser and a holstered handgun

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A policy of routinely allowing specialist officers to carry handguns is unlikely to change in the near future, a senior officer has said.

Ch Supt Elaine Ferguson said the firearms officers were needed to "address a risk".

The divisional commander for armed police was responding to concerns raised by Highland councillors.

Last week, 59 councillors supported a motion tabled at the full council that called for a review of the policy.

Officers from Police Scotland met councillors again earlier this week in the latest in a number of discussions on the routine arming of police.

Following the meeting in Inverness, Ch Supt Ferguson told BBC Radio Scotland the police authority was informed of the decision to allow a number of officers to carry side arms.

She said it had been an operational decision made by the chief constable and there was not a requirement to consult publicly on the move.

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

Highland councillors, including David Alston and Drew Millar, have questioned the need for officers to be routinely armed in the Highlands, an area with one of the lowest crime rates in the UK.

Holstered handgun

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

Police Scotland had adopted the approach across the country since its launch in April last year.

In May, independent MSP and former Northern Constabulary officer John Finnie raised concerns about the move.

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.

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

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