Legal fight begins for Scots remit in police spy inquiry

An environmentalist who officers allegedly attempted to recruit as a spy has started a legal action to have Scotland included in an inquiry into undercover policing.
Police Scotlands chief constable, Phil Gormley. Picture: Ian RutherfordPolice Scotlands chief constable, Phil Gormley. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Police Scotlands chief constable, Phil Gormley. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Tilly Gifford is seeking a judicial review after the Home Office refused to extend the Undercover Policing Inquiry led by Sir Christopher Pitchford north of the Border.

Ms Gifford was one of seven protesters belonging to the group Plane Stupid who occupied a taxiway at Aberdeen airport in March 2009.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She later recorded exchanges with men claiming to be from Strathclyde Police who indicated they could pay her for any information she had.

The Pitchford inquiry is investigating undercover policing dating back as far as 1968, but its remit does not cover Scotland and the Scottish Government has declined to set up a similar inquiry.

MSPs believe there is a growing body of evidence to show both the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) and the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) monitored a range of campaigners in Scotland and that a number of Scottish officers had been seconded to the units.

Police Scotland’s chief constable, Phil Gormley, was head of Special Branch in 2006 – the division which had responsibility for the SDS.

Ms Gifford said: “I was spied upon. But not only me, hundreds maybe thousands of people who where trade unionists, blacklisted builders, environmentalists and many others may have had their lives disrupted and ruined by political policing and political spying.

“If these activities were sanctioned by Scottish police authorities and the Metropolitan Police, there needs to be accountability not just of the officers but more importantly government officials who signed this off.”

Ms Gifford hopes to raise £10,000 to fund the legal action after being denied legal aid, to seek a judicial review of the decision by the Home Office not to extend Pitchford to Scotland.

Solicitor Paul Heron, of the Public Interest Law Unit, said:“It cannot be right that an investigation into the political policing of socialists, trade unionists, environmentalists, and social justice campaigners stops at the border.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to believe that a single inquiry across the UK would be the best option for a comprehensive and coherent investigation into these matters.

“As the UK Government has refused our request for this, we have directed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to carry out an independent review of undercover policing in Scotland.

“The review will be essential in gathering facts about existing and historical undercover policing activities,”