Tasers will be carried by police officers on Scotland’s railways – despite there being no specific intelligence of an increased threat on the network.
The British Transport Police (BTP) said the decision to equip a number of specially-trained officers with the device is a “proportionate” response to the current terrorist threat to the UK.
The force cited an incident at Leytonstone station in east London in December, where officers used a Taser on a man who slashed a stranger, stopping him from harming further passengers.
BTP’s introduction of the Taser comes after the Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced the number of armed police in Scotland would rise.
Police Scotland’s use of firearm-equipped officers has proved controversial, particularly in the Highlands.
But temporary Assistant Chief Constable Alun Thomas said the introduction of the Tasers would help protect rail users.
He said: “This decision is not based on specific intelligence of any criminal behaviour or imminent threat, but will allow us the option to deploy Taser devices where, in the course of their duty, an officer needs to protect the public or themselves by using force.
“The current threat to the UK from international terrorism remains ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely.
“Recent terrorist attacks across the world are a stark reminder that the threat from terrorism is a genuine risk and it is important that we keep our security measures and operational tactics under constant review.”
Mr Thomas said the use of a Taser in the Leytonstone incident had “undoubtedly prevented even further harm to the travelling public”.
Chief Superintendent John McBride, divisional commander for Scotland, said: “Providing Taser devices to a number of our officers in Scotland to consider when confronted with extreme violence means we are better-placed to deal with extreme threats and will be in the best possible position to protect passengers and staff on the railways.”
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said the public would need to be reassured that the decision had not been “taken lightly”.
He added: “As with the deployment of armed police officers, we must have robust reassurances that their use will be proportionate to the threat level.
“Police officers carry out dangerous and often lifesaving work on our behalf. It is also therefore right that we ensure they are both fully equipped and have the necessary training to prevent or counter any threat of violent acts.
“Security and safety are vitally important, but so too are our rights as citizens.”