|The badlands of Badenoch - photo by Markkuspartan via Wikipedia|
An article on the BBC News website begins:
In a little-noticed move, a small number of police officers are now routinely carrying sidearms while on patrol in parts of the mainland UK. How did this come about, and does it alter the relationship between the constabulary and the public?
Saturday night in Inverness. Outside a McDonald's restaurant, a scuffle between two men breaks out. Three police officers arrive to intervene. So far, so mundane.
Except that strapped around the hips of each of the policemen approaching the brawl is a holstered Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol.
It's a sight that once would have been unthinkable. In this corner of the Scottish Highlands - an area with one of the lowest crime rates in the UK - the officers showing up to a relatively workaday disturbance are armed.The architect of this sinister develop is Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary in the Scottish National Party at Holyrood. Which reminds us that there is no necessary link between nationalism and support for civil liberties.
So well done to Danny Alexander (Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, among other things) who is quoted in another BBC report as saying:
"This is a deeply disappointing statement from a minister with a deeply illiberal record as justice secretary.
"It will further fuel anger about the routine use of armed police officers.
"Kenny MacAskill had a chance to show he was able to listen to the sincerely-held concerns of many in the Highlands but instead he has once again turned a deaf ear.
"I hope the chief constable will show himself more willing to listen to people at the review in September."What is the rationale for this absurd policy?
That second BBC report tells us that MacAskill made a statement to MSPs defending the policy. "He said there had been a nationwide roll-out of a policy that was 'endorsed' by three former forces."
Which doesn't get us much further, but Deputy Chief Constable Livingstone is more forthcoming in a statement reproduced on the Police Scotland website:
It is true that some parts of the country experience lower levels of crime than others. But criminal behaviour does not respect borders or local authority boundaries. As events have shown us – in Cumbria, in Northumberland, in Hungerford and Dunblane, threat does not discriminate between the city or the town and the rural community. Police Scotland’s single unified service ended the previous post code lottery of services so all communities now have equal access to all the specialist services available at any time, including armed policing.In other worlds, if an armed response is needed in any place at any time, then it must be deployed in all places at all times.
You only have to type that out to see what nonsense it is. Just go back to the first BBC story to see what this policy means in practice:
John Finnie, an independent Member of the Scottish Parliament and former police officer, was approached by a constituent who said he had seen armed officers at the finishing line of the Highland Cross biathlon in the sleepy town of Beauly. The man told the MSP he "felt less safe", assuming some sort of major incident was under way.So all power to Danny Alexander and his campaign against the routine arming of police in the Highlands.
Go it, Beaker!