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Scottish police to debate carrying guns after London terror attack

Armed police go shopping in Tesco.
Armed police go shopping in Tesco.

Rank and file police officers are to debate the merits of routinely carrying guns in the wake of the London terror attacks.

The Scottish Police Federation Conference will ask if enough is being done to protect civilians if cities north of the border were to be targeted.

An emergency motion reads: “In light of the recent brutal and savage murder of Police Constable Keith Palmer in a terrorist attack, that conference discusses the policing responses and readiness of the Police Service in Scotland to deal with the terror threat.

“Specifically that conference discusses whether the fight against terrorism risks being undermined by drastic cuts to the policing budget, the erosion of community based policing, and whether officers have sufficient personal protective equipment (including firearms) to be able to protect themselves in the event of a terrorist incident.”

Having armed officers on routine patrols has proven controversial in recent years, with a number of complaints made about the visibility of potentially deadly weapons in places such as takeaways and supermarkets.

The attack on Westminster, where five people were murdered, has cast the issue in a new light, though, with some now favouring greater firepower on the streets.

The Police Federation announcement came as the Prime Minister announced that a major counter-terrorism exercise will take place in Scotland later this year.

The operation in October will test the multi-agency response that would come into force in the event of a terror attack.

Theresa May made the announcement on a visit to Glasgow where she met with officers from Police Scotland, which will act as the lead force throughout the operation.

She met a range of officers working in counter-terrorism, including some who were involved in Police Scotland’s response to last week’s attack in Westminster.

Mrs May told officers: “Obviously our thoughts are still with the family and friends of those who were killed in the attack that took place in London last week.

“Of course as we look to dealing with terrorism we need a multi-faceted approach.

“Police Scotland is the second biggest force in the UK, with huge capabilities and capacity, and working with other police forces across the UK to help to keep us safe.

“Thank-you for all that you and your officers do to help keep us safe and secure.

“Obviously as we look to the future we want to make sure, ensure that we are getting that cross-fertilisation across police forces.”

The training exercise will also involve areas in the north of England.

It is part of the UK Government’s National Counter-Terrorism Exercise Programme and brings together partners from policing and security, the Armed Forces, UK Government departments and the devolved administrations to test responses to a major terrorist attack.

The UK Government said lessons learnt from such operations are fed back to strengthen the UK’s response to a terrorist attack on UK soil.

Mrs May said: “The UK Government considers national security across the whole of the UK as a top priority.

“Training operations such as this one play a significant part in making sure police forces and other response agencies are able to fully draw on the latest intelligence and resources from the UK’s security forces to protect against terrorism anywhere on our soil.

“As the second largest force in the country, Police Scotland are a key player in our fight against terrorism. I’m grateful to them for the exceptional work they have been delivering so far to prepare for this very important counter-terrorism exercise.”

Police Scotland has automatic access to the UK’s National Crime Agency and its international networks, as well as the UK security agencies’ resources and their interception and surveillance abilities.

It can also draw on intelligence from the National Cyber Security Centre.

Pc Keith Palmer, 48, was stabbed by terrorist Khalid Masood in an 82-second rampage in London last Wednesday which killed three other people who had been on Westminster Bridge.

Masood drove his car along the bridge at speed, mowing down pedestrians, and was shot dead by police after he stormed the parliamentary estate armed with two knives.

The Prime Minister is in Scotland to meet the First Minister to discuss Brexit ahead of triggering Article 50.