Police officers from Scotland could be deployed in Northern Ireland to deal with civil unrest that could arise if violent protests broke out over Brexit and border issues, the chief constable of Police Scotland has said.
Iain Livingstone, who had being aiming to cut 700 officers from his 17,234-strong force in an attempt to tackle a £21 million deficit, said recent and possible future civil unrest over Brexit and the Northern Ireland border meant officers could be needed both in Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland.
Livingstone admitted to being “taken aback” by recent sectarian violence in Govan in Glasgow when riot police, mounted officers, a helicopter and dog units were called in after an Irish Unity march was met by hundreds of counter-protesters.
“It’s impossible to have anticipated even six months ago that we would have such mass mobilisation of citizens on the streets protesting about issues of democracy,” Livingstone said.
“If you then mix that with some potential implications from a no-deal Brexit where there are interruptions to key services, then there is the potential for political extremes to exploit that.”
He added: “If [Brexit] is aggravated by real tension on the island of Ireland, then they might seek the deployment of Scottish officers into Northern Ireland, but also for our own communities, because we know in the west of Scotland how closely aligned they are.”
Livingstone, who has been in the post for a year, also admitted mistakes were made when Scotland’s police forces were reduced from eight to one to form Police Scotland in 2013.
“In the early years of Police Scotland the focus was on operational delivery, standardisation, and conformity and compliance,” he said. “I was part of that, so I’m not criticising others, but we didn’t listen to our communities and our own people as much as we could have.”