THE controversial activities of undercover officers working for the Metropolitan Police in Scotland look set to be explored by an inquiry into state-sponsored spying.
Scotland on Sunday can reveal the Scottish Government has written to the Home Office requesting the Pitchford inquiry be extended north of the Border.
It follows allegations that undercover operatives, including notorious officer Mark Kennedy, spied on activists during the G8 summit in 2005.
Activists say Kennedy and a number of other Metropolitan Police officers infiltrated environmental groups in the run-up to the Gleneagles summit and carried on spying on them for years afterwards.
Last month, the Metropolitan Police issued an “unreserved apology” to seven women deceived into having relationships with undercover officers, including Kennedy.
The inquiry led by Lord Justice Pitchford is looking at undercover police operations in England and Wales dating back to 1968, but its remit does not currently extend to Scotland.
The Scottish Government has now written to a number of those taking part in the inquiry – many of whom were involved in the demonstrations around the G8 at Gleneagles – confirming its belief that Pitchford should “consider the activity carried out in Scotland” by undercover officers working for the Metropolitan Police. The Scottish Government had previously not wanted to take part in the inquiry.
As recently as two weeks ago it said the Office of Surveillance Commissioners had “never raised an issue” about the activity of undercover officers in Scotland.
But in a letter sent to “core participants” of the inquiry, Graeme Waugh, of the Scottish Government’s police division, said: “The Scottish Government believes that the inquiry should be able to consider the activity carried out in Scotland by the undercover officers attached to the Metropolitan Police units you mention in your correspondence.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Justice wrote on 10 December asking the Home Secretary to confirm that the inquiry will consider that activity.”
The decision was welcomed by Harry Halpin, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who believes Kennedy spied on him when he was a student at Edinburgh University.
Halpin, 36, who is a core participant in the Pitchford inquiry, believes he was put on a “domestic extremist watch list” after Kennedy passed information about him to the authorities.
He said Kennedy stayed at his home in Edinburgh and later travelled with him and a friend to a 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, where Halpin claimed he was badly beaten by Danish police.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “I could hardly see or walk by the time they had finished with me. I was never given an explanation by the Danish police on why I was targeted, but I think it was because of information passed to them by Mark Kennedy.
“It’s intelligence which is still being used to target people for no clear reason. It’s intelligence which should be removed.”
The issue of covert police surveillance has been repeatedly raised in the Scottish Parliament, but Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has previously resisted calls for Scotland to be included in the inquiry.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has been pushing for an inquiry, said: “This is a real step forward. One way or another, it looks like people in Scotland are going to be covered by this inquiry.”
Last month, the Met apologised to women who had relationships with undercover officers and agreed to pay compensation.
The Home Office confirmed it had received a letter from the Scottish Government, but declined to comment further.