Today, John Finnie convened a meeting in Inverness with Police Scotland and Highlands & Islands MSPs to discuss revised procedures which have seen Authorised Police Firearms Officers, from an Armed Response Vehicle, attend routine non-firearms related incidents in the Highlands and Islands.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, whose responsibilities include firearms, met with Mr Finnie and his fellow MSPs Mary Scanlon, Rob Gibson and Dave Thompson. Speaking after the meeting John said:
“The meeting was very helpful in giving me and my colleagues an understanding of the risk assessment giving rise to the need for the Armed Response Vehicle, which is based on confidential and highly sensitive information. I hope Mr Higgins has a clearer understanding on my concern that no assessment was done into any negative effects of deploying overtly armed officers to routine incidents.
“I have not asked to see the confidential information underpinning the risk assessment and don’t doubt it has been compiled in good faith. However, the catch 22 of this confidentiality means there never will be public scrutiny and that could see a less benevolent police regime deploy more armed officers on our streets.
“The reason behind the success of policing in the Highlands and Islands has been the level of community engagement and, quite simply, people are less likely to engage with an armed officer.
“Of course risks change over time, however, if the current assessment shows the need for routine arming of a small number of officers why do they need to be openly armed when arrangements can, and indeed do, exist for firearms to be covertly carried?
“I intend raising the matter at next meeting of the Parliament’s Police Committee (Thursday 29th May) and look forward to Police Scotland’s continuing engagement on this important issue.”