THE use of armed police in “routine duties” in the Highlands has been questioned by politicians.
MSP John Finnie, a former policeman and union boss, is to raise the issue with Chief Constable Stephen House, claiming they had no place in one of the safest areas in the UK.
Police Scotland said armed response officers have been “routinely armed” since the launch of the force in 2013.
Mr Finnie said before the launch of the new single police force in April last year, armed officers were deployed in a vehicle with the weapons locked in a safe in the boot. Guns could only be removed from the safe with the authorisation of a senior officer.
Mr Finnie said: “They are now routinely wearing them. That in itself concerns me.
“The fact they are deployed in support of police officers at routine police incidents – for example the dispersal of people from public houses and night clubs – is, I think, a recipe for disaster and I am deeply concerned about it.”
He said the Highlands had been an area previously held up as an example of where community-style policing worked.
The MSP added: “As we come into the summer, officers will be wearing shirt sleeves and uniform that will make the firearms even more visible.”
Highland MP Danny Alexander has also raised concerns about the use of armed officers in the region.
He said: “This development is distressing and many Highlanders will be shocked by the new police tactics. There is simply no need for officers to carry firearms in the Highlands.
“Ministers need to listen to Highlanders and return to the approachable community-based policing that we want and need.”
And former Northern Constabulary Chief Superintendent Ramsay McGhee said: “It is a damned disgrace.”
Mr McGhee, now manager of Inverness, Highlands and Islands Licensed Trade Association, added: “The Highlands are portrayed as being the safest place in the UK. What kind of message is this sending out to tourists? This is just another instance of where Police Scotland are coming from.”
Police Scotland Chief Inspector Charles Armstrong said armed response officers have routinely carried weapons since the national force was formed.
He added: “All officers within specialist services which includes armed policing are deployed in support of their colleagues in territorial divisions.
“They have their part to play in keeping people safe and that includes addressing concerns within communities and responding to calls. Armed response officers within Police Scotland are routinely armed and have been since 1 April, 2013.”
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