No specific terrorist threat to COP26, says Police Scotland

There is “no specific threat” to COP26 in Glasgow over terrorist attacks, the officer in charge of armed policing for Police Scotland has said.

Sep 13, 2021
By Website Editor
Police Scotland officers take part in a roleplay exercise involving an armed policing response stopping a suspect in a vehicle. Picture: PA Wire/PA Images

Chief Superintendent Louise Skelton said people should expect to see more armed officers around Glasgow during the international climate conference this autumn.

The force is understood to have about 500 armed officers and while there has been no increase in their numbers for COP26, a “significant” number of armed police from elsewhere in the UK will assist.

Chief Supt Skelton is head of specialist services at the force, which includes overseeing Police Scotland’s armed response, involving armed response vehicles and officers with Glock handguns and semi-automatic G36 assault rifles.

She told the PA news agency: “At the moment there’s no specific threat to the event but armed police are very much deployed as a contingency and obviously to keep the world leaders, heads of state, delegates and the people of Scotland safe and respond to any threat should it arise.”

The Queen, Pope Francis and US President Joe Biden are among the high-profile figures expected to attend, and each member of the UN has been invited, meaning nearly 120 heads of state are expected to arrive along with about 20,000 accredited delegates.

Speaking at a training event for Police Scotland armed officers at the Scottish Police College at Jackton, East Kilbride, Chief Supt Skelton said Police Scotland would continue to monitor the terrorist threat level as the event approaches.

Armed officers demonstrated armed response vehicles stopping a car in a mocked up street scene where the driver is thought to present a threat.

They also showed how they would stop a pedestrian armed with an axe in the street.

Chief Supt Skelton said: “It’s one of the most complex events that’s ever been held in the UK, particularly in Scotland, so there will be an increase in the visibility of armed officers, particularly in the Glasgow area where the event is being held.

“But, in terms of business as usual, we will have a 24/7 response throughout Scotland to respond to any serious threat to life or firearms incidents and that is always the case with us.

“We’re an unarmed service, we always have an armed response so that will not differ during COP26 but there will be officers dedicated to the actual event itself.

“We’re getting help from throughout the UK, from England and Wales, in relation to firearms officers and different skills of firearms officers.

“The plans are still being developed clearly but there will be a significant mutual aid assistance from colleagues in armed policing because of the scale and size of the event.”

Chief Supt Skelton said she was unable to disclose the number of armed police from Police Scotland elsewhere who will work at the event for operational reasons but there will be a “mixture of visible deployments throughout the city”.

Previously, the Gold commander for the event, Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, said Police Scotland is contributing about 45 per cent of the numbers for COP26 and several thousand officers will arrive each day in a phased approach, with about 10,000 involved in total.

COP26 negotiations are taking place at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC), which will be known as the Blue Zone and will be under UN control with its own security.

While not international territory, it will come under Scots law if a crime takes place.

Chief Supt Skelton stressed strict criteria govern the use of armed officers in Scotland.

She said: “Any deployment of armed police in Police Scotland is very, very heavily scrutinised and ratified by chief superintend who is a trained strategic firearms commander so there are very strict criteria in relation to that and the threat would need to justify the criteria for deployment.”

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