PRIVATE security firms are set for a £60 million Commonwealth Games bonanza as Police Scotland says it will be unable to provide full protection for the thousands of sports fans due to gather in the country next year.
Police chiefs admit they will rely heavily on external companies such as G4S, even though the firm failed to recruit enough staff to cover the 2012 London Olympics and had to be bailed out by the army and police forces around the UK.
Police Scotland, the new single force which starts operating in April, confirmed that of the £90m set aside for security at Glasgow 2014, two-thirds will be channelled into private hands.
To try to prevent a repeat of last year’s events in London, they will hand out a series of small contracts so they are not over-reliant on one company.
Those contracts will be put out to tender throughout this year and Police Scotland cannot rule out the possibility that some will go to G4S, although it said the company’s performance last year would be taken into account.
“There’s a significant need for private security,” said Deputy Chief Constable Steve Allen, who is in charge of police preparations for the Commonwealth Games.
“Not all the roles that pertain to security are suited to police officers. We don’t want them in sporting venues where there is no expectation of disorder so, as would be familiar with most sporting events, there would be a mix of security.”
Allen said the strategy was designed to minimise the chances of a repeat of the London experience: “We are dividing the contracts into packages so that each package is bid for separately. The design of packages is likely to lead to a mix of supplier.”
Many private contracts will relate to specialist equipment, such as airport security-style arches, CCTV cameras and radio systems. But Police Scotland is anxious to make sure its officers have a high-profile role in the biggest sporting event in Scotland for many years.
“That’s in part because of the G4S experience,” Allen said. “But it’s also because we recognise the reassurance and confidence people get from seeing police officers about.”
Most of the Games is taking place in Glasgow, with diving in Edinburgh and shooting in Tayside. However, police expect training camps and accommodation to spread out beyond the host city.
Armed police were used to protect training camps and hotels used by athletes and dignitaries in Scotland during the Olympics, but the strength of the security blanket for the Commonwealth Games has not yet been revealed. Allen admits the Commonwealth Games will be Police Scotland’s first major test.
“It’s like a papal visit every day for 15 days,” he said, in a reference to Pope Benedict’s 2010 tour.
Plans for the Commonwealth Games will get under way in earnest tomorrow, 500 days before the start date, with the announcement of the route along which the Games baton will travel, in an echo of the highly successful Olympic torch procession.
After arriving in Scotland, the baton is set to be transported around the country, including the islands and every single local authority area, before arriving in Glasgow for the opening ceremony on 23 July.
Police are also keen to embrace the volunteer spirit, which was a feature of the London Olympics.
More than 50,000 people have applied to volunteer in the Commonwealth Games, and Police Scotland hopes some people will agree to work as special constables. “We’re looking at the feasibility of a recruiting campaign to bring more specials in for the Games,” he said.
“We will be speaking to employers and saying if a member of your staff signs up to be a special constable, you could allow them to provide security on your time, rather than their own.”
The Scottish Government has backed Police Scotland’s use of private security.
“The security budget for the 2014 Commonwealth Games was increased to £90m as the Olympics highlighted a need for more physical security and to secure venues for longer periods of time than previously anticipated,” a spokesman said.
“London 2012 also highlighted the risk of having a single company providing private security, so the organising committee, in collaboration with the police, has split the private security tender for 2014 into multiple contracts.”
Following the London Games, G4S said it had lost £50m of its £284m contract to provide security at the Games. A G4S spokesman said: “As the leading UK events business, we are currently considering bids for a number of major events, including the Commonwealth Games.”