'We won't instruct police on Tasers' – Kenny MacAskill
THE use of stun guns is an operational matter for police and should not be decided by ministers, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has said.
He set out the Scottish Government position yesterday after calls from the Liberal Democrats to intervene on the issue.
Strathclyde Police announced last month that it wanted to trial the use of Tasers, which fire 50,000-volt electrical charges, in the Cambuslang and Rutherglen areas of South Lanarkshire.
Mr MacAskill told MSPs Tasers were "accepted and proportionate" weapons for police. He added: "They are used to try to negate the requirement to use proper firearms. These are operational matters."
Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown had raised concerns that the proposed three-day training for officers was insufficient. He also warned against the "direction of travel" for all officers to carry stun guns.
"I am not someone who takes alarmist stances but I am not actually very keen to see heavy-duty police methods imported from the Metropolitan Police or indeed American-style policing in Scotland," he said.
"We have a tremendous police force who are very successful at what they do, not least because they have the confidence of local communities.
"The policy on Tasers, when they are authorised, the circumstances under which they can be deployed, are manifestly policy decisions to be determined."
Tasers are classified as weapons under firearms legislation, which the SNP wants devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Mr MacAskill said: "Tasers are an accepted and proportionate method of providing for the safety of officers and citizens.
"It is not acceptable that our officers should have to endure such a high level of assault and it is understandable and acceptable that police forces would want to trial new approaches to address this."
Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles questioned whether this would allow police forces to decide to use other firearms without ministerial intervention.
Mr MacAskill replied: "No, this government has always made clear, and it's the view of Acpos (Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland], the view of the Scottish Police Federation, it's the view of police conveners – I don't know of anybody who argues for a fully-armed police force."
He stressed the Lord Advocate was the "only person" who could direct police in criminal matters.
Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said MSPs should be focusing on the 4,000 officers in Strathclyde who were assaulted each year, according to recent statistics.
He described the scenario of an officer facing "a 6ft 2in person who is drunk, under the influence of drugs or other dubious substances, wielding a baseball bat, machete, or samurai sword or other weapon".
"What is the answer in that case? The answer is surely that that individual would have to be restrained," he said.
Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said that if Strathclyde Police did deploy Tasers across the force, it would be a "significant move" for the rest of Scotland. "Other forces, I imagine, are very likely to follow suit," he said.
He said there were "good reasons" for the pilot, which aimed to give officers "the tools they need to do their job". But he added the health impacts had to be reviewed at the end of the pilot.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east