Dedicated oversight group established on policing of COP26

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is to establish a dedicated oversight group to work with Police Scotland and others on the policing of November’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26).

Jan 22, 2020
By Paul Jacques

The global climate event, being held in Glasgow, is expected to require the largest ever mobilisation of police resources.

At a meeting of the SPA in Edinburgh on Friday (January 17), Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said while a significant range of planning and activity was already underway, he has continuing concerns about the lack of clarity on policing what is a UN event hosted by the UK Government.

The conference centre will handed over to the UN from Friday November 6 until the close of COP26 on Friday November 20. During that time, the UN will retain control of the site (known as the Blue zone), which will become international territory and fall under international law. Discussions are ongoing with senior law officers and the UN to determine how Police Scotland will record and investigate any crimes that occur within the Blue Zone.

COP26 is expected to attract around 40,000 attendees, peaking at 15,000 on the busiest day. It is anticipated that some 3,000 media, observer states and personal staff will see this overall figure rise to 90,000 over the period.

In addition to the main conference at Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus, the SPA says it is likely that heads of state and attendees will attend other meetings and social functions outside the main venue.

Mr Livingstone has appointed Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins as the Gold Commander for COP26, and he will be responsible for the planning and operational delivery of the event.

The SPA says a police Gold Strategy has been developed with the overall aim of working with partners to “deliver a safe and secure COP26”, both at the conference centre and other COP26-related sites and venues, while “minimising the impact on the wider community”.

“Embedded within the strategy for this event is a recognition that the safety and wellbeing of conference attendees, the wider public and those who may seek to engage in protest must be paramount. Any public perception of a policing style which is not in keeping with expectations may have social implications for the relationship between the police and the public. Accordingly, the policing style and tone of this event will be planned and delivered in a manner which maintains the positive relationship between Police Scotland and the communities it serves,” said the SPA.

While welcoming the opportunity to host an international event on this scale, the SPA says it will be seeking strong assurances about recovering full costs for Scottish policing so there is no detriment to the already stretched policing budget, and that the impact on day-to-day policing for communities the length and breadth of Scotland is mitigated.

It says taking into consideration the planning assumptions, and based on previous major summits and conferences, such as the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014, the initial costings demonstrate that the event “will cost potentially several hundred million pounds”.

While the event is primarily based in Glasgow, activity associated with the event is anticipated on a national basis, which may also impact on communities across Scotland.

“Accordingly, work is ongoing to develop a Community Impact Assessment and a key tenet of the strategy for this event will include minimising the impact of the event on communities and providing business as usual policing services to the communities of Scotland,” said the SPA.

The oversight group will be chaired by SPA member Tom Halpin and the authority said it will be engaging with local government to “ensure the interests and sensitivities of local communities inform its work”.

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