Manchester attack: Armed police to patrol Scottish Cup final

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Armed police will patrol the Scottish Cup final on Saturday for the first time in memory as part of Police Scotland stepping up its presence at major events to reassure the public after the Manchester attack.

The event, which is expected to attract some 50,000 fans, is normally policed by unarmed officers.

Armed police will be on patrol at Hampden. Picture: John Devlin

Armed police will be on patrol at Hampden. Picture: John Devlin

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there would be a “significant increase” in the number of firearms officers on duty across the country.

Safety at every event over the next two weeks will be reviewed.

Police stressed there was no known threat to Scotland despite the UK threat level being raised to “critical”, and people should be “alert not alarmed”.

But a security expert called for more intelligence officers rather than armed patrols to foil plots.

Major events over the next few days include former US president Barack Obama speaking at a dinner in Edinburgh on Friday.

The Edinburgh Marathon Festival this weekend will have 30,000 participants, including 10,000 running the marathon on Sunday.

Race director Neil Kilgour said: “We work very closely with Police Scotland and other partner agencies to ensure all relevant safety precautions are takenover the course of the weekend.

“The safety of our runners, their supporters and the public is our number one priority.”

Police Scotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley said people would see armed police “on patrol at transport hubs and crowded places”.

These include around major railway stations, while existing patrols of airport terminals such as Edinburgh and Glasgow have been increased.

There will also be more armed response vehicles on the streets.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the police would hold a full review with the Scottish Football Association of the cup final between Celtic and Aberdeen at Hampden Park in Glasgow, which some 50,000 fans are expected to attend.

However, the force said firearms officers to be deployed at some events were likely to be equipped with sidearms rather than the sub-machine guns seen with airport patrols.

Ms Sturgeon said there would be more police at other events such as at marathons, “VIP events” and in city centres, including at night.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, which includes the 13,000-capacity SSE Hydro arena, said: “Our current security operation considers information provided to us by Police Scotland and is scaled appropriately to each event.

“We will be liaising with the police regarding our security arrangements with the necessary measures put in place to provide further reassurance to those attending or working at events in and around our venue.”

The Hydro hosts a Lisbon Lions celebration tomorrow, comedian Micky Flanagan on Friday and rock band Kiss on Saturday

At Glasgow Central, Scotland’s busiest station, which is used by 80,000 people a day, a Network Rail spokesman said: “There are a lot more police on the concourse than normal, for reassurance more than anything else.”

Unarmed British Transport Police (BTP) patrols have also been stepped up at other stations.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport, which handles nearly 40,000 passengers a day, said: “Police are more visible and they have upped both their armed and unarmed patrols.”

A Glasgow Airport spokesman said: “We continue to operate at a heightened level of security and armed officers will remain visible and on patrol.”

Mr Gormley said: “As part of the UK-wide response to these events, Police Scotland continues to review all safety and security plans and operations.

“This includes ensuring our armed policing and specialist resources are appropriately deployed.“People will therefore see armed police on patrol at transport hubs and crowded places.

“There is no intelligence to suggest there is any threat to Scotland but I would ask the public to remain alert and report anything suspicious.”

BTP Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith said: “Extra officers will be on patrol at key railway stations as well as on trains around the country.”

Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at Buckingham University, described the targeting of children and teenagers as a “new level of depravity”.

However, he said more armed police was not the answer, and the number of intelligence officers should be doubled.

Prof Glees said: “The bottom line is we do not need more police in uniform, we need more intelligence-led policing. We don’t need more visible police – we need more ‘invisible’ police.”

He said there had been substantial cuts south of the Border in backroom staff who dealt with intelligence.

“There is a desperate need for more such officers data mining to help protect us from such sadistic killers.

“Manchester has to be seen as an intelligence failure, but for every potential terrorist you know about, there is one you do not know about.”

Another security expert told The Scotsman that venues should not let their guard down at the end of events when they opened doors for people to leave.

He said: “The focus is getting everyone out safely, while not enough attention is paid to whether someone with sinister intent might try to gain entry, as may have happened in Manchester.”Another security source, who heads up security at one of Britain’s biggest venues, said attacks could be stopped, but were dependent on budgets to pay for things such as detection dogs for the duration of events.

Extra armed police officers will also be deployed at Wembley for this weekend’s FA Cup Final and at Twickenham for the Aviva Premiership rugby final.

The Chelsea Flower Show, which expects to see 165,000 visitors pass through its gates by the time the event closes on Saturday, said it is maintaining a “strong security presence”.