More than half of Scotland’s police officers “would like” the option to carry a firearm as assault cases continue to rise, a survey has found.
In a poll carried out by the Scottish Police Federation on nearly 1,700 officers, 53% said they would like the option of being able to carry a handgun as part of their safety equipment.
Meanwhile, nearly 60% of officers said they would like to be trained in handgun use.
It comes as 22% revealed they have been subject to an assault in the last three months, and 40% respectively in the last year.
David Hamilton, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said the figures, published on Tuesday in Scotland’s justice and social affairs magazine 1919, highlight the real dangers being faced by officers on the beat.
“This shows just how real the dangers are to police officers and how vulnerable they feel delivering policing in Scotland,” he said.
“The public will be aghast that 22% of our police officers have been assaulted on duty in the last three months.
“Perhaps the biggest shock is that 53% of our officers would like access to a handgun and a further 7% would be prepared to be trained in it if necessary.”
Inverness residents object
Inverness residents have previously objected to plans to distribute firearms to local police officers.
In 2014, Press and Journal readers refuted plans of having armed police on routine patrols, with more than 625 people out of the more than a 1,000 that responded opposing the move.
Meanwhile, just 381 people believed the move should have been endorsed.
‘I’m not sure that people in Moray would be supportive’
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said violence against officers is “completely unacceptable,” however, he believes his local constituents would object to a move to arm officers.
He said: “As we police by consent, it has always been a cornerstone of policing in this country that officers don’t routinely carry firearms and I’m not sure that people in Moray would be supportive of such a move.
“Thankfully, gun related crime is very low in most Scottish communities and crime rates more generally are at a lower rate than past decades.
“I recognise that there have been an increasing number of incidents where officers have been abused or attacked whilst on duty, which is completely unacceptable, and it’s vital that local police officers are supported to feel safe in the communities they serve.”
Investment in safety equipment
Findings in the recent survey also highlighted that 84% of police officers questioned would like to carry tasers, with many in favour of body-worn cameras.
Mr Hamilton says the calls for the introduction of weapons not only highlights the frequency of the attacks but the “gravity of them.”
He added: “This demonstrates not just the frequency of attacks but the gravity of them too.
“These are sons and daughters, mums and dads, each of whom has taken an oath to serve their communities and keep people safe, but communities have a duty to keep their officers safe too.
“Officers consider knives to be the greatest risk to them and firearms are the appropriate last defence to being attacked by such lethal weapons.”