CALLS are to be made for Scottish police officers to be armed in the wake of the Westminster terror outrage.
Controversy surrounded a previous attempt to routinely arm bobbies north of the border.
Then, the nation was split on the issue of officers carrying lethal protection with them at all times.
But, following Wednesday’s attack, which resulted in the murder of unarmed Police Constable Keith Palmer at the hands of Khalid Masood, The Sunday Post can reveal the issue will be discussed by rank and file officers at the Scottish Police Federation’s annual conference on Tuesday.
The topic was not originally on the agenda of the event, which will be attended by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, but is now “a racing certainty” to be examined following last week’s attack which resulted in the police officer and three other victims being killed.
Some federation members believe it is time for Scottish officers to be armed “given the expectations placed on them to deal with terror situations” and not simply be “potential victims to add to the body count”.
Terror expert Professor Anthony Glees, director of Buckinghamshire University’s security and intelligence studies, is also calling for more armed officers on our streets.
He said: “We have sent an extremely brave man – PC Keith Palmer – to deal with an Islamist terrorist who was armed with a knife.
“You don’t send soldiers into battle unarmed. Times are hard now and we need more armed police.
“We have got to stop pussy-footing around. When the terror threat is reduced we can get rid of the guns.”
The number of armed officers to cover the whole of Scotland, , has increased recently by around 400.
For operational and security reasons Police Scotland will not reveal the exact figure on duty at any one time, but it’s widely accepted to be only a “tiny fraction” of the specialist resource.
Last June, it was announced the number of armed officers in Scotland would be increased by a third after an injection of £3m.
At the time, Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins warned the terror threat was “severe”.
The move was a result of a fresh assessment of the danger posed by fanatics following atrocities in Orlando and Paris, as well as homegrown criminals with increasing access to guns.
Forces in England and Wales are training an extra 1500 firearms officers to help guard against terrorism at a cost of £143m over five years.
But ACC Higgins stressed the increase in armed officers in Scotland was not a response to intelligence of a specific terror threat.
Scottish Police Federation general secretary Calum Steele would not be drawn on the details of the agenda for the three-day conference at the Trump Turnberry golf resort in Ayrshire.
However, he said: “Wednesday was a stark reminder of the very unpredictable nature of the job we do.
“Police officers never know what they will be dealing with next.
“When something like this happens it drives home the reality there is a chance you may leave for work in the morning and not come home.”
He also challenged Scotland’s MSPs to provide adequate funding for policing.
Mr Steele added: “In many ways, the warm words we hear from politicians at these times are very welcome.
“However, they have a responsibility to deliver what is required to protect their citizens and I would ask them to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve done that in recent years.”
Former Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House faced a storm of controversy when it emerged armed officers were being sent to deal with routine incidents.
House, who left his post in November 2015, made the change without the consent of politicians.
He also promised to stop sending armed officers out on such patrols, but top brass later admitted armed response officers had been involved in 1644 routine incidents since the chief made his pledge.
Highland Green MSP John Finnie, a former police officer and a staunch critic of the way the force handled the armed officers controversy in 2014, warned there shouldn’t be a “knee-jerk reaction” to the London attack.
He said: “I understand what will motivate people to make calls for officers to carry firearms but this is a time for calm reflection.
“What makes the world safer is removing conflict but the stark reality is you can’t cover for every eventuality. What you do is assess risk and put mechanisms in place to deal with it.
“In relatively recent times we’ve seen an increase in the number of authorised firearms officers being deployed by Police Scotland.
“We were given a briefing a few months ago about the nature of the threat that’s posed and this week we’ve been told there’s no evidence to support an additional threat to Scotland.
“It’s certainly not a knee-jerk reaction that’s required.”
Claire Baker, Labour’s justice spokeswoman, also urged caution.
She said: “We must be wary of rushing to decisions so soon after such a tragedy. With intelligence saying that we are not under immediate threat we need to ensure our policing is proportionate.”
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson insisted the deployment of armed officers was an operational decision for the Chief Constable, Phil Gormley. He added: “The Standing Authority to carry firearms is also reviewed quarterly, taking into account the threat level.”
PC Palmer, a former soldier, was stabbed to death by Masood at a security gate outside the Parliament building. The 52-year-old fanatic was armed with two knives when he confronted the father of one.
MP and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has since questioned why there was not an armed presence at the gates where the incident took place, and said it was a “little bit of a surprise that there was not”.
Masood claimed a number of other lives in a murderous spree which saw him mow down a large number of people on Westminster Bridge before crashing his grey 4×4 into a gate.
His victims included Aysha Frade, 43, a mum on the school run, US tourist Kurt Cochran, 54, and 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes, from South London, who was injured in the catastrophic attack and later died in hospital.
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