Cop26 climate change summit: How can it be right for Police Scotland to 'facilitate' unlawful protests? – John McLellan

It’s only three weeks away from the Cop26 UN climate summit when world leaders and their entourages will descend on Glasgow for a fortnight to thrash out the next response to global warming.

Police Officers make an arrest during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

With civil disobedience from extremists a distinct probability, the security effort involved will dwarf the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh or the 2005 G8 summit. Thousands of police officers will arrive from England to make sure the events will be properly marshalled while normal policing continues.

Extinction Rebellion protests are designed to cause as much disruption as possible and lawfulness isn’t much of a consideration, but judging by a briefing to the Scottish Police Authority by Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins, reported in the Scottish Police Federation’s magazine 1919, law-breaking appears to be something Police Scotland is prepared to tolerate.

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“Our policing plan is about facilitating peaceful protest, even on occasions when it might be unlawful; we might have to deal with the unlawful aspects of it further down the line,” said ACC Higgins, who is commanding the operation.

The article revealed that meetings have taken place with Extinction Rebellion leaders and ACC Higgins added that “we will facilitate unlawful protest, to a point”.

It’s all very well dealing with situations as pragmatically as possible, but for senior police officers to admit in advance that they will “facilitate” law-breaking is quite something.

The police might say this is nothing new, but when lawful business can be disrupted by facilitated law-breaking there is still a lot of explaining to do.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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