Scotland politics

MSPs debate undercover police spying

Philip Gormley
Image caption Philip Gormley was Commander of Special Operations at the Met Police in 2006

An MSP has questioned what the chief constable of Police Scotland knew about the actions of undercover police when he worked for the Metropolitan Police.

MSPs were debating the behaviour of undercover police as part of a members' debate at Holyrood.

Phil Gormley, who was sworn in as chief constable of Police Scotland this week, previously headed Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police.

He told BBC Scotland he knew "nothing at all" of the allegations at the time.

Former policeman and now Green Party MSP John Finnie questioned how much supervisory officers including Mr Gormley had known about a notorious undercover unit whose officers slept with female targets, and whether they had been "negligent".

A public probe, the Pitchford Inquiry, has been set up in England and Wales amid concerns undercover officers fathered children while using false identities to infiltrate activist groups.

MSPs were holding a debate calling for the inquiry to be extended north of the border, after allegations that officers also operated in Scotland.

Neil Findlay, who led the debate, said the actions of some officers were "nauseating and utterly corrupt", and an example of a "state machine conspiring with powerful interests against ordinary people".

Image copyright Philip Sim
Image caption John Finnie served as a policeman for 30 years before becoming an MSP

Mr Finnie said there was a need for undercover officers, but hit out at the "disgusting" actions of some.

He said: "The worrying thing is, that is not a rogue individual - that must have been known by supervisory officers.

"They did one of two things - they either ignored it or were unaware of it. Either way they were negligent.

"And who were they? Indeed do we have one of them in our midst in the form of our new chief constable?

"Certainly having a supervisory responsibility in special branch it's inconceivable that they wouldn't have some knowledge they could share."

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Gormley said he knew "nothing at all" about the actions of the undercover officers in the 1980s when he was Commander of Special Operations at the Met Police in 2006.

He said he would be as transparent as possible in respect of the ongoing inquiry and said he would co-operate fully with any questions asked of him by MSPs.

Community safety and legal affairs minister Paul Wheelhouse said he was not aware of evidence that Scottish officers authorised those involved in the inquiry.

He agreed that the Pitchford Inquiry should be extended to include any activity by Met Police units in Scotland, but said the use of undercover officers by the Scottish force was "very different" to that elsewhere.

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