The deployment of armed police officers to more than 5,000 routine incidents last year has been defended by the Minister of Community Safety.
Figures revealing that Scotland’s firearms officers attended 5,250 incidents that did not require an armed response were criticised by John Finnie MSP, a former police officer.
However, questioned in the Scottish Parliament about the recent policy change allowing armed officers to attend routine calls, Ash Denham MSP said it was a “sensible use of police time”.
Ms Denham said: “These changes have allowed armed officers to utilise their core policing skills and attend incidents where speed of response or vulnerability was a key factor.
“The incidents refer to equate to around 0.3% of the total number of police incidents Police Scotland officers attend each year.”
Officers in armed response vehicles also helped find more than 3,500 missing or vulnerable people since their role was extended last May, as well as providing medical assistance at over 600 incidents.
They have also dealt with more than 1,000 road traffic matters including collisions, speeding and drink-driving offences, according to Police Scotland.
The force respond to approximately 1.8 million incidents each year, Ms Denham explained, adding that she had spoken to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), who told her the use of armed police was “proportionate”.
Ms Denham added that the SPA is keeping the policy under review and will discuss the issue at their board meeting later this month.
Commenting on the figures, Chief Superintendent Matt Richards, commander of Police Scotland’s Specialist Services Division, told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “Our armed response officers are extremely highly trained.
“Overall, they’re providing a higher level of service – and more quickly – to the public.”
Mr Richards added that the use of firearms is always a “last resort”, saying that in his experience even the presence of a Taser had “caused a huge drop in nviolence and, in particular, injuries to the public”.
Firearms officers are equipped with a handgun and a Taser, which they carry while attending routine incidents.
They also have access to a semi-automatic G36 carbine rifle, which can be deployed during firearms incidents and a launcher for so-called rubber bullets.