Scottish Liberal Democrats have said that a crucial report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) into armed policing has uncovered a systematic failure by Police Scotland to communicate the fundamental change in policy to people across Scotland.
The report, published today, agreed with the Chief Constable’s proposals for armed officers only to attend incidents involving firearms or a threat to a life. This followed concerns from local communities who had learnt through newspaper reports that armed officers were attending routine duties and overtly carrying sidearms.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have today said that communities will expect Police Scotland to accept the positive recommendations.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:
"HMICS has uncovered a systematic failure by Police Scotland to communicate the fundamental change in armed policing policy to people across Scotland.
"The HMICS report makes clear that the decision to enable armed officers to overtly carry sidearms while undertaking routine duties was not subject to robust scrutiny prior to its introduction on day one of the new national force. It wasn't discussed at key meetings between the police and SPA and those tasked with scrutinising such changes only considered its impact once the public concern about the way they were being policed was highlighted by newspapers and community campaigns. We need assurances that this backwards approach to scrutiny will not be repeated in future.
"Scottish Liberal Democrats have always been clear that there is a correct time and place for armed police in Scotland. We are pleased that HMICS has supported the Chief Constable in his recent decision that officers with guns should only attend incidents involving firearms or a threat to life.
"All the evidence has pointed to an accountability vacuum at the very top of the police - something for months SNP Ministers have denied. I have consistently argued the Chief Constable’s so-called ‘operational independence’ has been used to stifle legitimate debate. It is welcome that HMICS agrees that a system based on‘operational responsibility’ would provide much-needed clarity on roles and boundaries.
"Communities will expect Police Scotland to accept these positive recommendations and embrace, not evade, transparency and accountability in future."