Police officers should be given powers to search young people for alcohol to prevent anti-social behaviour at some large-scale gatherings, it has been claimed.
Publishing a review of police stop-and-search powers, a Scottish Government advisory group said there was no need for a general power to search for alcohol.
But citing the example of disturbances at Troon beach, the review raised the possibility of legislation to provide for a power of search related to gatherings.
Large numbers of police were deployed to the beach last year and in 2017 amid alcohol-fuelled clashes on sunny days.
The independent advisory group said: “The Troon beach events involve a large-scale but relatively spontaneous or at least quickly planned assembly of young people, many of whom bring alcohol with them concealed in bags.
“While there is insufficient evidence to justify the creation of a general power to search young people for alcohol, we recommend that work be done to explore the possibility of specific legislative provision for a power of search related to gatherings such as those at Troon beach.”
The report called for young people to be consulted on the measure, saying it would need to be “intelligence-led” and not simply used any time there was a gathering of teenagers.
A new code of practice for police stop-and-search came into force in 2017. It followed the scrapping of non-statutory or “consensual” stop-and-search amid controversy over its use on children.
In its report published yesterday, the advisory group said the transition to the new regime – where police must only use intelligence-led statutory searches – had proved to be “remarkably effective,” with a higher proportion of searches discovering illegal items.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I welcome the significant increase in the proportion of searches which have resulted in a positive outcome, suggesting that stop-and-search is being used in a more appropriate and targeted way, resulting in a more effective use of police time and resources.
“This is testament to the professionalism and responsiveness of the police service, which has delivered significant improvements to the stop-and-search process over the last few years.”
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, of Police Scotland, said: “Intelligence-led stop-and-search remains a useful tactic in the prevention, detection and investigation of crime and keeping people safe.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government as appropriate on the [review’s] recommendations.”