The Scottish Government has refused to commit to setting up an inquiry into controversial undercover policing practices should an existing probe not be extended north of the Border.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson has already written to the Home Office calling for the Undercover Policing Inquiry, led by Sir Christopher Pitchford, to be extended to Scotland.
Undercover operatives working for the Metropolitan Police, including notorious officer Mark Kennedy, are known to have spied on political activists in Scotland during the G8 summit in 2005.
But during a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, legal affairs minister Annabelle Ewing repeatedly refused to commit to a separate Scottish inquiry, should Home Secretary Theresa May not extend the UPI.
She said: “We are absolutely focused on having the inquiry extended if that is where the evidence leads. That’s what we are absolutely focused on securing and achieving in our conversations with the Home Secretary.”
MSPs believe there is a growing body of evidence to show both the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) monitored a range of campaigners in Scotland and that a number of Scottish officers had been seconded to the units. Police Scotland’s chief constable, Phil Gormley, was head of Special Branch in 2006 – the division which had responsibility for the SDS.
During yesterday’s debate, MSPs said undercover officers had fathered children with women they were spying on and had used the identities of dead children as aliases.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has led calls for the inquiry to be extended to Scotland, likened the cover-up over undercover policing to the Stephen Lawrence case and the Hillsborough tragedy.
Speaking after the debate, he said: “The Scottish Government had the opportunity to side with the victims of the undercover policing scandal and confirm they will hold a Scottish inquiry if the UK Government fails to extend the Pitchford inquiry – the minister failed to give MSPs any such assurance.
“The women violated, the families whose dead children’s identities were stolen and the activists whose lives were affected will be rightly angry by this weak response.”
Conservative MSP Douglas Ross added: “I understand that the best outcome is to have Scotland included in the Pitchford inquiry, but it may be that is not possible, given that the inquiry is already at a certain stage.
“Therefore, I think the Scottish Government should have given the guarantee I was asking for that they will hold a Scottish inquiry. Otherwise, the victims will not have their concerns addressed.”