JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill has been accused of “washing his hands” of the controversy over routine arming of police officers.
Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson had written to Mr MacAskill, voicing concern about what he described as a “fundamental change” in policing policy made by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House and arguing there was a need for “proper accountability”.
But Mr MacAskill wrote back insisting there had been no change in police firearms policy and said three of the eight former forces had followed the same approach before the formation of Police Scotland.
He also cited a recent incident in Princes Street where officers had used a taser “to prevent a potentially very dangerous situation escalating”. He said it was an example of why appropriate officers must be available to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day.
“Such prompt action by the police ensured that the public in the immediate vicinity were kept safe, although one officer was injured himself.”
However, Mr Pearson, a former director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, condemned Mr MacAskill’s “apparent apathy” towards the arming of officers on patrol.
He said: “Kenny MacAskill has completely washed his hands of all responsibility in this matter and appears to be entirely disinterested in an issue which has sparked significant public concern.
“The operational independence afforded to Police Scotland should not extend to fundamentally changing the nature of policing.”
He said Mr MacAskill should explain to the Scottish Parliament the rationale behind the policy instead of “passing the buck” to Police Scotland.