Armed police patrols ‘doubled’ after Manchester attack

Armed officers are taking a friendly approach to passers-by outside the parliament. Picture: Jon Savage

Armed officers are taking a friendly approach to passers-by outside the parliament. Picture: Jon Savage

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UP to 20 armed police officers are patrolling Edinburgh’s streets in the wake of the Manchester terrorist attack.

Officers in relaxed mood were yesterday chatting with passers-by while protecting key buildings including Waverley and Haymarket stations, as well as Holyrood.

A source said the number had doubled from normal patrols and was running at full capacity, with teams of two or three officers also in mobile units.

“They’re highly trained and professional and they’re working hard to protect us,” said the source.

“People are seeing them in a better light too. They’re having tourists take photos and cafes giving them coffees and tea, which is appreciated.”

It comes as police in Manchester arrested several people as they investigate a possible “network” around Monday night’s attack.

Salman Abedi blew himself up outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, killing 22 people. His 23-year-old brother is among those arrested.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed troops would be deployed at 12 Ministry of Defence and civil nuclear sites across Scotland to free up more armed officers if needed.

Ms Sturgeon stressed “no specific threat to Scotland has been identified” and said soldiers were not expected to be deployed on the streets.

Any decision to use freed-up armed officers would be taken by police but there were currently no plans to do so, added Ms Sturgeon.

A meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee was held after the UK’s terror threat level was raised to critical – the highest category. All visitors to Holyrood, including MSPs, are being searched.

The source said leave had been cancelled, with around-the-clock, 12-hour shifts implemented for armed officers in the Capital.

Each officer carries a Heckler & Koch G36 rifle and Glock 17 pistol sidearm, with specialist anti-terrorism units also on alert.

The source said: “They’re just doing their jobs. Everybody has rallied round in support of Manchester.

“They’re working alongside forces down there – it’s very much one big family and that’s a good thing.”

Marksmen are also expected to be posted on the roof of Edinburgh International Convention Centre for former US president Barack Obama’s appearance tomorrow.

Police are reviewing every upcoming public event, including this weekend’s Edinburgh Marathon Festival.

The First Minister said: “This is clearly a very anxious time but there is no need to be alarmed.

“Many of the steps that are being taken now are precautionary and I repeat there is no intelligence of a specific threat to Scotland.

“However, I do ask the public to be vigilant and to report any concerns or suspicions that they may have to the police.”

Some of the victims of Monday’s attack have been named and include young concert goers, parents picking them up and an off-duty police officer.

Of the 64 injured, 20 are in a critical condition. Twelve of them are children.

The search was last night continuing for a Barra schoolgirl who is missing following the attack.

Eilidh MacLeod, 14, remains unaccounted for while her friend Laura MacIntyre, 15, is in a “serious condition” in a Manchester hospital.

Both girls are pupils at Castlebay Community School. Headteacher Annag Maclean said: “Our school and island community are in shock, feeling numb and struggling to come to terms with it. Our thoughts and prayers are with Eilidh and Laura, their family and friends as they struggle to cope.”

Police Scotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley said a nerve centre had been set up to lead the security response with different agencies. He added: “We increased the number of armed police on patrol at key locations and the public should expect to see armed officers on foot patrol.”