Scottish Policing Authority refuse to launch inquiry over policing at COP26

The Scottish Policing Authority (SPA) have announced they will not be carrying out an independent inquiry into the numerous policing failures that occurred during COP26 in Glasgow in November last year.

Numerous MSPs supported the call for an independent inquiry after findings from NETPOL and Article 11, found over a hundred separate incidences of police intimidation, surveillance and heavy-handedness through the fortnight long period.

It highlights, the use of kettling tactics on the International Day of Action on November 6th. The YCL, who were the primary targets of these tactics condemned the acts of police officers, but the failures of policing go far beyond the actions of officers on that day alone. There are numerous reports of discriminatory policing, and racial profiling and targeting – yet still, the SPA have the cheek to say their policing was “proportionate, fair, positive, and balanced,” and “attracted international interest and positive comment”.

YCL General Secretary, Johnnie Hunter, said: “Far from ‘serving the public’, the police exist as an arm of the state to protect private property and the capitalist system. At times of heightened class consciousness attacking and repressing the left and the labour movement are their essential function.”

Recent scandals have exposed how discriminatory and corrupt police forces across Britain really are. At a time when the governments at Westminster and Holyrood are moving to provide police even more arbitrary powers, we have to intensify the struggle to defend and extend our democratic rights and resist attacks on our movement and communities.

Not just kettling, the report highlights the excessive surveillance used throughout COP26, including many acts which are unlawful. The report states: “This intrusive surveillance was not only potentially unlawful, in the case of attempting to force kettled people to allow themselves to be photographed and filmed in exchange for their freedom, but it also may amount to breaches of protesters human rights.”

The Charter for Freedom of Assembly states: “The police must ensure and guarantee the right to privacy. There should be strict limitations, genuine safeguards and specific prohibitions on the police’s use of surveillance tools to track individuals organising or taking part in protests.

Meanwhile back on the ground, many YCL members were kept in a police kettle for several hours for the sole reason of refusing to identify themselves to police officers despite committing no crimes.

The full NETPOL/Article 11 report, published in December, can be read here.

In a quarterly review published by the police in March, Police Scotland reported that over 250 probationary officers were deployed during the demonstrations “to support effective policing”. Speaking as someone on the ground that day, it is fair to say that this was obvious. Police were inexperienced, lacked co-ordination and had no obvious line of command, instead operating according to a game of Whispers were everyone but them was to blame for their heavy-handed response to ordinary working class young people making their voices heard.

The SPA’s refusal to investigate these issues is in line with Police Scotland’s continued attempts to avoid the truth of the events during that period. On numerous separate occasions, the police have lied through their teeth, changing their story, and subsequently blaming different groups for the issues that took place that day.

The news of the SPA’S decision, first reported by the Ferret, comes in the same week as school protesters relaunch their Fridays for Futures campaigning. Campaigners held demonstrations across Scotland today, and despite their ambitions and all the attention that COP26 garnered from across the world, the situation is much the same as it was last year.

One protester who spoke to the BBC today, said “It’s very hard not to feel hopeless at COP. Months on it really is a case of – we are still here. We are seeing so many other crises day after day – the cost of living crisis, fuel poverty.” It is hard not to feel dejected after repeated acts of betrayal from those in power. The decision to ignore policing concerns is just one more betrayal. YCL Scottish Organiser, Michael Quinn, said “We aren’t surprised at attempts by the state to suppress us, but we stand ready to meet all efforts to stifle our enthusiasm and determination. This is merely the beginning, and we will not lose this fight.”

Socialism Or Extinction!

Peter Stoddart

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