Danny Alexander speaks out against use of armed and mounted Police in the Highlands

Police on Horse BackIn February, I reported that Danny Alexander had spoken out about the use of Police horses in his Highland constituency. As a native of Inverness I shared his sense of horror that anti-riot policing techniques were being used in the peaceable and safe Highland capital.

Danny had written to the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to express his concern about such unprecedented, heavy-handed policing, to to mention the cost of bringing the horses up from Ayrshire at a time when the service is closing local control rooms. He’s now had a reply from Kenny MacAskill which is at least consistent. In the same way as he’s said over abuse of stop and search, or over the appalling conditions in which women were kept at Scotland’s women’s prison, Cornton Vale, he insists that it’s an operational matter for the Police. You wonder why we bother having a Justice Secretary. He must have the emptiest desk in St Andrew’s House.

MacAskill’s letter has all the tone of “Get lost, the Police know what’s good for you” about it and it’s clear that, as far as MacAskill is concerned, they can do what they like:

Ultimately, the deployment of officers and specialist resources is an operational matter for Police Scotland and it will be for them to decide when and where to decide where these specialist resources are deployed in the future.

Of course, before the Police merger, these decisions would have been taken at the Raigmore , Inverness headquarters of the Northern Constabulary. I don’t recall them ever calling in police horses to police a football match before. As with the Edinburgh saunas, local policing traditions are being over-ruled by what happened in the former Strathclyde area. Glasgow and Inverness are two very different places with different policing needs and shoul have very different policing strategies.

And it gets worse. Today’s Herald reports that officers in Inverness on weekend nights have had firearms support. While there was always an armed response vehicle in Inverness, the guns were locked away until they were explicitly needed. Now it looks like they are being given out as a matter of course. These tactics would be questionable anywhere, but even more so in a place which has never shown the need for them. The needless  additional risks aced by my nieces and nephews on a night out worries me. Where you have guns, you have the potential for things going wrong and people being hurt or worse.

Danny has spoken out against these new developments:

These tactics show a fundamental misunderstanding of the Highlands and our communities.

 Many local people have since contacted me concerned by the new one-size-fits-all approach displayed by the SNP Government and Police Scotland.

 We are lucky to live in one of the safest parts of the UK and the SNP’s new centralised police force seems hell bent on bringing anti-riot mounted units and armed police to the Highland Capital.

Before Northern Constabulary was disbanded, there was a secure armed unit ready to respond in a crisis. There is simply no need for officers to carry fire-arms in the Highlands.

The SNP government is becoming more and more remote to people in the Highlands.  Ministers need to listen to Highlanders and return to the approachable community based policing that we want and need.

I was half-joking when I suggested in my February article that we might see tasers in Achiltibuie. Maybe I wasn’t that far off the mark after all.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Charles Rothwell 12th May '14 - 4:46pm

    Sounds as if what I was saying in an earlier post about the urgent need to devolve decision-making more within ENGLAND may also be a worthy subject of debate within Scotland as well. (Have no idea how true it is, but we here south of the border hear a lot about how a Scottish vote would not go down well at all in Orkneys, Shetlands, Western Isles etc.?)

  • I take it that Danny Alexander would have no problem with the army training it’s recruits in Iraq or Afghanistan ie. in a active war zone? Also remember part of the training isn’t so much for the officers who ride horses or are in the firearms squad, but for their colleagues, so that they get used to joined up working practises.

  • Stuart Mitchell 12th May '14 - 8:51pm

    I’m not sure why Highland Lib Dems have such a downer on police horses. Living in Manchester, police horses have always been a common sight. There is nothing menacing about them, in fact most people are absolutely thrilled to see them. There’s a country park near my house and I occasionally see them patrolling the paths there, much to my pleasure.

    Danny Alexander talks about “approachable community based policing”. Often when I see police horses they’re surrounded by hordes of delighted children. What could be more approachable than that? Sitting in a van?

    I’m not trying to sugar soap this – I realise these are tough officers and animals capable of doing a tough job when needed – but I honestly can’t see what’s sinister about a police horse.

  • I think most people are just glad when they see visible policing around (nothing more visible than a police officer on a horse…).

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