The deal will see Atalian Servest Security liaise with Police Scotland, the UK government, and the United Nation’s own security services during November’s event.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins, the gold commander for COP26, said senior officers from the force have met with representatives from the Suffolk-based Atalian Servest, who will also be providing security at next month’s G7 summit in Cornwall as part of its FCDO contract.
He told a virtual board meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that Police Scotland would support the private security firm, which will be tasked with running a search area for people entering the summit venues.
The authority has described the summit as “the biggest and most complex event ever staged in Scotland,” one which will “necessitate the largest mass mobilisation of police officers that has taken place in the UK in many years.”
With plans still in place for an in-person summit, as many as 30,000 people are expected to visit Glasgow, with VIPs including world leaders such as US president Joe Biden and Pope Francis.
The authority said that the easing of lockdown restrictions, which has moved the vast majority of areas of the country into level two Covid-19 restrictions, would “assist positively” with logistics and procurement planning for the summit.
Mr Higgins said that Police Scotland will be setting up a multi-agency coordinating centre in Govan to oversee the “one in a lifetime” event.
The facility will be staffed by police as well as other emergency services, the military, and representatives from the UK and Scottish governments.
He explained that the police’s role would be to coordinate the operation, if not necessarily take charge of it. But he stressed that if there was a “very high tipping point” during the course of the summit, such as a terrorist attack, he would assume operational command over all agencies, including the private security firm.
Mr Higgins expressed concern to the SPA board members about the prospect of litigation following the event, an issue that has been raised with administrations in Edinburgh and London.
“Effectively, if we arrest 300 people, and a year later they decide that they are going to have a mass lawsuit against us, clearly to defend such an action is simply not in the police budget,” he explained.
“There should be no detriment to Police Scotland’s budget. Should someone sue us, and any award be made, it would still be a COP26 cost. We need the financial assurance that should this happen, then the UK and Scottish Government need to understand it’s not in our budget.”
Martyn Evans, chair of the SPA, also voiced fears over the impact on policing budgets due to any “unforeseen” costs, describing the prospects of future litigation as a “potentially very significant financial risk.”
“It’s an issue that’s not settled at all, and it remains a significant issue of risk,” he said. “I know our chief executive and the chair of our audit committee are aware of that.