Police chief promises ‘robust response’ to protesters seeking to disrupt Cop26

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(Ian West/PA)
(Ian West/PA)

Scotland’s most senior police officer has said his force will respond “swiftly and robustly” to protesters who try to disrupt the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Thousands of activists are heading to Scotland’s largest city to make their concerns known to the world leaders who will be around the negotiating table.

Two major demonstrations are scheduled to take place, on Friday November 5 and Saturday November 6, and organisations such as Extinction Rebellion will also take to the streets during the summit.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said the force – together with 7,000 officers from other parts of the UK who have been deployed to Scotland to help police Cop26 – was “ready for the challenges that lie ahead”

He said there will be “physical engagement” with protesters as some “will not remove themselves voluntarily”.

In situations where activists refuse to move, “protest removal teams”, each with up to six officers, will be deployed.

Mr Livingstone told a briefing: “The reason so many officers are required is for the safety of the protesters but also the safety of the officers involved.”

We will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest at Cop26, balanced against the rights of the wider community

Iain Livingstone

He said he had warned Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Government ministers that it may look “quite messy” when police remove protestors in this way.

But he added: “It is so important that the rule of law is maintained and that protest is legitimate and protest is reasonable, but it doesn’t interfere with the working of the conference, because the conference is here to make progress with regard to climate change.”

He added that “robust measures” would be used if necessary, and there will be “physical engagement with protesters to make sure that the conference can go ahead”.

Cop26 will have one of the biggest ever policing operations in the UK, with as many as 10,000 officers on duty on some days of the conference, Mr Livingstone said.

He added: “We will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest at Cop26, balanced against the rights of the wider community.

“But to those intent on violent disorder and damage, to those who seek to disrupt the climate conference actually taking place, I have a clear message – we will respond swiftly and robustly.”

He said the climate conference will bring “large direct protest groups” to Scotland, but stressed Police Scotland had “considerable experience within the organisation of policing large-scale events, of policing protests”.

He said protesters will be “policed fairly but they will be policed firmly, if there is any interference with the working of the conference or if there is any threat of damage of violence”.

The Chief Constable said: “An event the size of Cop26 of course places considerable demands on policing, and brings inevitable disruption to communities.”

But he said he was “confident of Police Scotland’s ability to lead this enormous policing operation”.

“Our police service is ready for the challenges that lie ahead, both to police Cop26 and to continue keeping people safe right across the whole of Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon said she had “full confidence in the approach Police Scotland will take over these next two weeks”.

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