Last week’s decision by Police Scotland to reverse the policy of having armed officers attending non-violent incidents was welcomed by Highlands and Islands politicians.
David Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said he was previously assured by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House that the concerns of the public would be taken into account at a review meeting in September.
He added: “The decision to strike a balance between the legitimate concerns of the general public against the duty of the police to keep folk safe is a victory for common sense and just shows what can be done when people and organisations focus their minds around an issue.
“I would like to thank Police Scotland for taking on board the concerns of the wider public and I look forward to hearing of any updates from the new working group’s preliminary report at the next meeting of the armed policing monitoring group in January.”
Labour MSP David Stewart welcomed the “sensible decision” by the chief constable.
“I do not understand why this decision took so long to make, especially when you consider the vast body of opinion against armed officers attending routine incidents,” he said. “It is a great pity that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and his Government colleagues buried their heads in the sand and let this issue drag on for so long before resolving it.”
Charles Kennedy, Lib Dem MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said the announcement was a “win for thousands of individuals across the Highlands and Islands who stood up to this policy” and called for a return to traditional Highland policing.
He added: “This U-turn is the right decision by Police Scotland. It has always been clear from the constituents that I speak to that Highlanders do not want or indeed do not need armed officers patrolling our streets. I am glad that the SNP Government have come to some sense and acted to resolve their illiberal and undemocratic armed police policy.
“My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will continue to make the case for common sense policing in the Highlands and across Scotland. If you are concerned, as I am, about armed police then I encourage you to make your voice heard in the Scottish Policing Authority consultation before Friday 17th October.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon added: “The issue of armed police officers regularly attending calls which have no need for an armed response has caused significant concern in this area for some time and I know a range of local people and bodies have highlighted the concerns about this practice.
“I’ve met with senior officers of Police Scotland over this issue and while they have a clear view that issues such as armed officers should be the same Scotland-wide it was clear in the Highlands that the sight of armed officers entering shops, speaking with children or doing other routine duties was alarming to both locals and the many thousands of visitors to the region.”