Police officers in Scotland are locked in a battle with bosses over their readiness for terrorism
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) – representing officers up to the rank of chief inspector – insists budget cuts have left the force “undermined”.
The SPF has faced calls for every officer in the country to be armed with Tasers in the wake of last week’s Westminster attack, in which three members of the public and PC Keith Palmer were killed.
But force chiefs insisted that Police Scotland’s specialist firearms unit is armed, ready and “match-fit” to tackle a terror attack.
However, SPF general secretary Calum Steele told delegates at the Federation’s annual conference, at the Trump Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire, that officers needed more than a baton and CS spray to keep the public safe.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “The message that came out loud and clear is that police officers do not have the equipment to be able to protect themselves and the public.
“We know that batons don’t work, we know that in 40 per cent of cases spray doesn’t work, we know that unarmed police officers are not only sent to incidents of knives but also to reports of firearms. That’s a disgraceful position to find ourselves in and it’s unforgivable.”
Mr Steele continued: “The events at Westminster took place in less than 90 seconds and were able to be brought to an end because hundreds of officers were in the vicinity.
No police force in the world can stop those kinds of events
SPF general secretary Calum Steele
“No police force in the world can stop those kinds of events, but police should be given the equipment they need to protect themselves and the public if events unfold quickly.
“We don’t have anything that would allow us to deal with the immediacy of a very quick attack such as that which unfolded in London.”
He said police officers should have the “full range of equipment to be able to do their jobs” while some delegates want every officer trained to shoot and to have guns available in their vehicles.
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Armoured police personnel carriers are seen on a street leading to the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 24, 2017 two days after the March 22 terror attack on the British parliament and Westminster Bridge
Mr Steele said: “This has got to be about more than tactical police responses It’s got to be about more than machine-guns. It’s got to be about more than police officers with ballistic helmets, wearing their balaclavas and carrying out a very dangerous role.
“The terrorist attack in Nice with the truck was brought to an end by ordinary armed police officers.
“The terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan theatre in Paris were brought to an end by tactical firearms officers. There is room for both. You need both.”
The Scottish Police Federation insist budget cuts have left the force undermined
But Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne, speaking at a briefing where he was accompanied by heavily armed officers, said the force could draw on specialist units when they were needed.
He added: “We are committed to remaining what looks like an unarmed service, because that’s what we believe makes policing work here. Where we need armed capability, we can draw on it at speed and in numbers.”
Meanwhile, MSPs are to be guarded by police officers armed with Tasers after the London attack.
The SPF is calling for all officers to be given Tasers in the wake of the Westminster terror attacks
The new security measure came into effect at Holyrood after horrifying events at Westminster last week.
Two officers equipped with Tasers will be on constant duty with the site covered 24 hours a day.
Other firearms officers are understood to be based nearby and close to other government buildings.
Scottish Parliament chief executive Paul Grice said: “Police have assured us the move is an operational contingency measure and not based on any intelligence threat in relation to parliament or Scotland.”
The move comes amid a review of security measures at Holyrood.