Scotland

Scotland 'could not cope' with Paris-style attack

Armed police after Paris attack Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish Police Federation wants to see more armed officers carrying weapons in public in Scotland

The Scottish Police Federation has warned that the country could not cope if faced with a terrorist attack on a similar scale to events in Paris.

The federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said Scotland was "woefully under-equipped, under-resourced and under-prepared".

It called for more armed officers to be carrying their weapons in public.

The Scottish government said it did not support the routine arming of police officers on the streets.

However, a spokesman said that "where there are life and death situations it is absolutely right that our police have the operational ability to respond appropriately".

The spokesman added that Police Scotland were "actively reviewing their capability to deal with incidents since the Paris attacks" and said ministers "are in dialogue with them on this".

Police Scotland said it was working to ensure Scotland communities were "resilient" to the threat from extremism and terrorism

The police federation meeting was to discuss a number of issues associated with the current threat, particularly from Jihadist extremists.

'Woefully under-equipped'

Members recognised that no amount of planning, preparation or investment could guarantee the prevention of every single terrorist attack but said the police service in Scotland and from across the wider UK could not cope with a Paris-style attack in which 130 people died.

They also urged the Scottish government to halt cuts to the police service.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: "We need only look at the recent horrific events in Paris and particularly the tactical capabilities and the speed at which they were deployed to come to the conclusion that Scotland is woefully under-equipped, under-resourced and under prepared.

"We want to be clear that this is not the fault of the exceptional officers prepared to undertake these onerous roles not least as you can't train for scenarios that you neither have the equipment for or the people to deploy to.

"It is time to accept that Scotland simply cannot afford the luxury of keeping police officers out of sight as by the time they could be deployed could in itself be far too late."

Last year Police Scotland was forced to review its policy on armed police after politicians and members of the public objected to officers being sent to deal with routine calls while carrying guns.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption A total of 130 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the terrorist attacks on Paris

Mr Steele added: "Let me be clear, this SPF is not calling for a fully armed police service (at this time) but we do believe we need more trained officers routinely carrying their weapons in public.

"We clearly know our critics will point to events like Paris and observe that an armed police service couldn't prevent attacks there and we recognise this.

"That being said, unarmed officers have absolutely zero containment ability and whilst we restate that we can't stop every single attack, we believe we should have some form of immediate capabilities to at least be able to try to mitigate the effects of one."

'Limited capability'

Mr Steele said it cuts to budgets meant there were fewer officers in communities.

"Police officers need time to become embedded in our communities and to build trust and relationships with them," he said.

"Regrettably the austerity at all costs approach sees police officers running from pillar to post and not having the time to stop, talk and listen. It is at this most basic level that the fight against terrorism and extremism begins."

Mr Steele highlighted the fact that Scottish officers would be called on if there was a terrorist incident in England but said this would mean "diluting yet further the very limited capability that Scotland currently has".

Responding to Mr Steele's comments Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson said: "Police Scotland works as part of the UK counter terrorism network to reduce the threat from extremism and terrorism.

"We work closely with partners, both local and national, ensuring that Scotland's communities are resilient to the threat.

"The structures established since Police Scotland, including the Scottish Crime Campus, provide capability and capacity for Counter Terrorism operations to support local policing divisions throughout Scotland.

"The deployment of armed police officers is continually assessed and the numbers will reflect current information, intelligence and the threat level."

'Cause for concern'

A Scottish government spokesman said: "This government has protected officer numbers with 1,000 extra delivered since 2007.

"This is in stark contrast to the situation in England and Wales, where police numbers are expected to fall by around 15,000 over the UK government's comprehensive spending review period."

Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, said: "It's unfortunate that the SPF should chose now to link domestic issues in relation to the routine arming of police officers with such a devastating event.

"These are times for a unity of purpose and a commitment to maintain our way of life in the face of the threat. These are not times to lobby for resources."

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "We live in a dangerous world and it is important to protect the public in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

"However, suggestions that more officers will be fully armed in the future is a cause for concern."

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