'Brexit cops' deployed in Edinburgh 997 times since August

Reserve Force set-up in case of No Deal patrols protests and festivals

Saturday, 18th January 2020, 7:45 am
Senior officers are keen to keep the unit
Senior officers are keen to keep the unit

A NEW rapid reaction force of police officers has been deployed an average six times a day across the Capital, the Evening News can reveal.

The Force Reserve was set-up last August as a contingency for a No Deal Brexit only to play a central role in patrolling protests and festivals.

Senior officers talked up the unit at yesterday’s Scottish Police Authority meeting and said they wanted to keep it with a tricky year ahead.

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Deputy chief constable Will Kerr said: “Frankly and bluntly, 2020 is going to be about boots on the ground.”

Officers will face a range of high-profile events to police over the coming 12 months, including the European football championships and COP26 climate talks.

The Force Reserve comprises 300 officers drawn from communities across the country and formed a key part of Police Scotland’s £15 million No Deal Brexit contingency planning.

Under Operation Yellowhammer, it was envisaged officers could be deployed in the event of public disorder or feared food and medicine shortages.

Instead, they played a key role in policing Extinction Rebellion protests and Hogmanay celebrations - as well as helping find missing vulnerable people.

Split into five hubs across the country, the Edinburgh contingent are based at Radford Barracks.

From here, officers have been deployed 997 times across the Capital since August.

A report to yesterday’s meeting detailed how the Force Reserve has been used to support front line policing.

The list includes anti-social behaviour, searches, violent attacks, and missing persons as well as pre-planned events including Hogmanay, football matches and protests.

Officers in the Force Reserve have also bolstered general patrols to carry out stop-and-searches, seize drugs and execute warrants executions.

Scottish Police Federation vice chairman David Hamilton said: “It all depends what happens with the budget.

“If we don’t have the force reserve, and it disappears, all these demands will be soaked up while not having the officers.”

Nationally, there were 1,182 different deployments of the Force Reserve in November and 1,015 in December.

As well as boosting policing, the unit has been credited for helping staff wellbeing by reducing the number of cancelled rest days.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The latest update from Police Scotland makes clear the range of issues and challenges the service is facing in relation to Brexit.

“In recognition of that, we have assured the SPA that up to £17 million is available to cover Brexit-related policing costs.

“Budget discussions are on-going and, as well as pursuing the UK Government to ensure it meets the full costs of EU exit and of hosting the COP26 summit, we will continue to press them to pay back the £125 million VAT paid by Police Scotland before the Treasury reversed this unfair policy in 2018.

“Annual funding for Police Scotland is now more than £1.2 billion and we continue to engage closely with the service and Authority and Police Scotland to support them in keeping people safe.

“Despite constraints on Scotland’s public services through a decade of UK austerity, we have worked with Police Scotland and the SPA to maintain and improve policing services, including providing significantly more officers than at any time before 2007 – at the same time as numbers in England have declined by more than 19,000.

“However, we will continue to ensure Scotland’s police service is well funded. As Ministers have made clear since Police Scotland and the SPA published their 2026 strategy, we expect officer numbers to remain significantly above the level inherited in 2007.”