MSP concerned for safety of G8 bound Scots police

INDEPENDENT MSP John Finnie – a former policeman who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – has called on Scots officers not to be deployed to the ‘remilitarised’ Northern Ireland for the controversial G8 summit.

Scottish police officers will be drafted in to the Province to help cover security for the meeting of G8 leaders in June.

Mr Finnie, also a former secretary for the Scottish Police Federation in the Highlands, fears for the safety of the officers being deployed – the number he believes to be around 300 – particularly following recent tensions over the flags dispute in Belfast.

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The Independent MSP, who quit the SNP last year following its stance over membership of Nato, said: “No meaningful risk assessment would show this chosen location as suitable for such a high-profile event.

“All the necessary security measures for such an occasion can be readily coped for in the capital cities of the nations involved and, just like Gleneagles in 2005, this is a significant imposition on the Scottish Police Service and the local community where it’s to be held.

“I understand that as a result of the Patton Inquiry, officer numbers have effectively halved to accommodate the so-called ‘normalisation’ of policing and Scottish officers are being asked to fill the gap left.

“I have concerns about the well-being of officers from Scotland been sent to this ill-conceived event, concerns which will be greatly heightened by any suggestions of them being involved in so-called ‘joint patrols’ with the UK military forces.”

Mr Finnie said he feared for the safety of police officers being sent “to what will surely be a remilitarised north of Ireland”.

He added: “I think this is a political deployment and, for that reason, I will be writing the Cabinet Secretary for Justice asking for Scottish officers not to be deployed in the north of Ireland and, if that decision is not taken, then I’ll be seeking detailed assurances about them not being deployed with UK military and a promise that any tasks they are asked to perform are rigorously risked assessed.”

This year’s G8 summit will be hosted in the Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh in Northern Ireland during June, with the leaders meeting on the 17th and 18th.

As with the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, such assistance comes via a mutual aid agreement between specific police forces.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins, responsible for Operational Support at Police Scotland, said: “As part of the UK policing response to this event, a contingent of Scottish police officers will be deployed to the G8 policing operation on a mutual aid basis.

“This also involves officers from throughout England and Wales. Liaison involving all forces is taking place and is ongoing regarding the detailed planning around the deployment of officers.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This is an operational matter for the Chief Constable.

“There are no powers for Ministers to prevent a chief constable providing cross-border aid. Mutual aid is the main means by which the police service operates with flexibility to meet extraordinary demands such as G8.

“Scotland has benefited in the past – for example when the G8 was held in Scotland – and will continue to benefit in the future.”

Arrangements for cross-border aid between police services are made by chief constables, under section 98 of the Police Act 1996.

The Scottish Government insisted there were no powers for Ministers to prevent a chief constable providing cross-border aid.