Police Scotland ‘ready’ to deliver one of Britain’s biggest policing operations during COP26

Police Scotland says it is “ready and well prepared” to deliver one of the largest policing operations undertaken in Britain as extensive planning for the COP26 climate conference reaches the final stages.

Oct 15, 2021
By Paul Jacques
Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr

Around 10,000 officers will be deployed each day to support the safety and security of the event in Glasgow next month, at which around 120 world leaders and heads of state are expected to attend.

The planning operation, which has been underway for almost two years, has been the largest undertaken by Police Scotland.

It said officers will be drafted from every division and department across the force, supported by a “substantial number of colleagues” from other UK police services as part of mutual aid arrangements.

Deployments will include specialist resources such as firearms officers, dog handlers, mounted branch, search teams and the marine unit.

COP26 will take place from October 31 to November 12 at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “Police Scotland is ready and well prepared to deliver this operation which will involve one of the biggest mobilisation of police assets the UK has ever seen.

“With around 120 world leaders and heads of state attending, along with thousands of delegates and those who wish to protest, the scale of the security operation cannot be overstated. It is a huge challenge but one we are ready to deal with.

“Police Scotland has an enviable reputation throughout the world for the policing of major events and I am confident that we will once again deliver a response which helps deliver a safe and secure conference.”

He said Police Scotland’s style and tone of policing will be friendly, fair and accommodating for anyone wishing to protest during the event.

All mutual aid officers will be under the command and control of Police Scotland’s chief constable and will receive detailed briefings on the style and tone of policing ahead of being deployed.

Mr Kerr said: “Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation and has a duty under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest, balanced against the rights of the wider community.

“We will provide a proportionate policing response to any protests and have been engaging with known protest groups for some time to ensure their rights to peaceful assembly and protest are met.

“The policing of protests is a particularly difficult balancing act when they are non-violent and peaceful but highly disruptive or unlawful.

“People at protests sometimes break the law in a number of ways that aren’t linked to violence or disorder, such as blocking roads.”

Mr Kerr said the small minority of people who may be intent on violent disorder or causing damage will be dealt with “swiftly and robustly”.

He added: “Some disruption is inevitable during the event, if someone is causing significant disruption by wilfully obstructing a main traffic route then officers may move through the various stages of our graduated response more quickly than they would during instances which are causing minimum disruption.

Mr Kerr said a considerable part of the planning for COP26 has been to ensure that communities continue to receive the same high standard of service from policing they have come to expect.

“Policing, so often the service of first and last resort, will never step away from people in crisis,” he said.

“There are pressures which exist across many other services, agencies and sectors, and when the health service, local authorities and other key partners come under significant strain, demand is diverted to policing.

“However, Police Scotland prioritises emergency 999 calls and these are answered within less than ten seconds, on average. Our non-emergency response times continue to be affected by high demand.

“While an event the size of COP26 places considerable demands on policing, we already have contingencies in place and are taking steps to boost those over the coming weeks.

“Although there is potential for further disruption should pressure on other agencies and services persist and become more acute, particularly as the country prepares for COP26, I can reassure the public that if they need an emergency response from us they will get it.”

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