Loopholes have been identified in new powers to allow police to disperse indoor gatherings, the body representing rank-and-file officers has said.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move on Thursday, with the new powers permitting officers to disperse indoor gatherings with more than 15 people from one household.
David Hamilton, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), said the organisation was not consulted on the move by the Scottish Government and it has questioned how the new powers will work in practice.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, Mr Hamilton said: “The legislation was only published yesterday and we have a number of questions with that… we’ve identified a number of loopholes.
“We didn’t get any consultation on this at SPF, so we have a number of questions we’ve put back to Government, but hopefully we can work something out about what that means and what they’re meaning with this legislation.
“We’ll also work with Police Scotland in terms of developing that operational guidance.”
Mr Hamilton said the SPF has concerns about how officers will know how many people are inside at a particular event, and how they can identify which households each attendee is from.
He added: “This is the type of thing – how do you know from the outside what’s on the inside?
“There’s a number of questions we have about that.”
FM @NicolaSturgeon has confirmed that from tomorrow (Friday 28 August) restrictions on social gatherings will come into force, making it an offence to hold large house parties indoors.
These new powers will be reviewed in 3 weeks.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) August 27, 2020
Mr Hamilton claimed the legislation, which came into force on Friday, would be seldom used and he described the new powers as being about “messaging”.
He said: “Fundamentally, this is a messaging bit of legislation.
“We don’t expect to see it being used frequently and we’ll continue with the approach of educating and engaging people without having to use powers.”
Mr Hamilton later said officers “would not hesitate” to use the powers if necessary, but such instances would be rare.
Both the First Minister and Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said on Thursday that the powers will be used as a “last resort”, with officers favouring an approach based on engagement with the public.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the Chief Constable said he hopes the SPF agrees the legislation, as with all legislation on policing during the pandemic, was passed on “public health grounds”.
He added: “What’s been clear is that indoor house parties have a high likelihood of transmission and therefore the introduction of this new offence, the introduction of a power of entry under certain conditions, are clearly necessary for that public health imperative.”
Mr Livingstone also said he will continue to work with the SPF, and may look to talk to its representatives after the briefing.