Police (Use of Weapons)

General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2004.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 2:00 pm, 9th December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with chief constables regarding the use of weapons by the police. (S2O-4422)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The Justice Department is in regular contact with chief constables on a wide range of issues, including the police use of firearms and less lethal alternatives such as Taser and baton rounds.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I agree that the use of firearms might occasionally be necessary to deal with armed criminals, but is the minister concerned about the frequent, visible presence of police armed with submachine-guns, wandering around public places such as airport terminals?

Given that the police possess or are demanding other potentially lethal weaponry, such as plastic bullets, CS gas and Taser stun guns, will the minister at least seek some form of parliamentary approval for such measures, instead of leaving it all to the discretion of chief constables? After all, Scotland is a parliamentary democracy and not a police state.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I seem to recall answering a previous question from Dennis Canavan, when he accused—"accused" is perhaps the wrong word. He suggested that we were trying to turn Scotland into a police state. I gave him an absolute assurance at that time that, of course, that was not the case. However, it is true that there are matters that should be decided by chief constables for operational policing purposes. I do not think that it is fair to describe situations in which that discretion has been used to have armed police officers to help to improve public safety in certain circumstances as wandering around with submachine-guns.