Armed police on Scotland's streets to rise by a third
Police Scotland is set to increase its number of armed officers by a third amid concerns over a Paris- or Orlando-style terrorist attack.
The force will train an additional 124 firearms officers, 90 of whom will go on patrol with armed response vehicles (ARVs) – a 33 per cent increase on the existing 275 ARV officers, who would be “first responders” in the event of an attack.
The remaining officers will be trainers or specialist firearms officers assigned to high-risk sites across the country.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said the force had been developing its plans since January 2015, and stressed the increase was not in relation to a specific piece of intelligence.
But he said there was “a catalogue” of recent terrorist attacks, including those in Paris and Brussels, and the gun attack at an Orlando nightclub last weekend which served to highlight the growing risk.
He said: “There is no specific known threat to Scotland and this increase is not a response to any direct intelligence, but we must play our part in ensuring the safety and security of the whole of the UK.
“It would be dangerously complacent to think that Scotland is any less at risk than the rest of the UK and this move helps enhance our response.
“The current firearms deployment model in Scotland was developed in 2013. Much has changed, especially around the threat from terrorism, but also our understanding and assessment of criminal access to and use of firearms.”
Mr Higgins said it would be spring or summer of next year before all the new firearms officers are in place.
He said officers would be deployed in places where the force is “currently vulnerable”.
Following the Paris attack in November last year, the Scottish Police Federation called for more armed officers, saying Scotland was “woefully under-equipped, under-resourced and under prepared” to deal with a similar incident.
In April it was announced police forces in England and Wales would train an extra 1,500 firearms officers at a cost of £143 million.
Police Scotland will spend about £3m on equipment for the newly-trained armed officers funded by the extra £100m they received for counter-terrorism in April.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “The vast majority of Scotland’s police officers are not routinely armed and we have made an unequivocal commitment that that position will not change.
“Of our 17,317 police officers only a small proportion have standing firearms authority to carry weapons.
“This will now increase, but will still represent a small percentage, fewer than one in 40 officers.”