Nicola Sturgeon has said she is open to the idea of equipping ambulance crews and police officers with body-worn cameras, but stopped short of committing to a wider rollout of the technology.
The First Minister was asked to commit to providing body-worn cameras to frontline emergency service workers to increase their safety, deter potential assaults and secure convictions against attackers.
Although she said the Scottish Government will “engage” with Police Scotland on the issue, Ms Sturgeon said their use is an “operational decision” for the force.
At last month’s Scottish Police Authority board meeting, Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said Police Scotland are “well behind the curve” on the issue of equipping officers with body-worn cameras, describing it as “ridiculous” that most armed officers do not use them.
The Scottish Government is providing funding of £500,000 for the technology but Mr Kerr said the force has to prioritise its use by armed officers ahead of Cop26 “when the eyes of the world are going to be on us”.
He said: “We should have had it years ago, frankly, we’ve been saying for a while that it seems rather ridiculous that our armed officers don’t have it.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to us and there wasn’t the funding provision for it.”
Asked about making more cameras available to police officer and ambulance crews, Ms Sturgeon said: “We support the efforts of Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service to protect the safety and welfare of frontline responders and of course the general public.
“The issue of body-worn cameras for police officers is a policy and operational decision for the chief constable acting under the oversight of the Scottish Police Authority.
“However it is part of our budget allocation for policing this year we have provided one-off funding of half-a-million pounds to support their use amongst armed officers.
“We engage regularly with the Scottish Ambulance Service and if this is something that the ambulance service wishes to pursue in the future, we will engage with them fully in that.”
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Kenneth Gibson MSP said: “Last year there were 6,942 assaults on police officers and staff, and 251 on ambulance crews in Scotland.
“Senior police officers I’ve spoken to believe that body cameras are a vital tool in increasing officer safety, deterring attacks, securing convictions against those who carry out assaults, and boosting public confidence in engaging with officers.
“NHS England announced last week it would rollout body cams for ambulance crews to deter and protect.
“Should the current public consultation back an extended rollout of body cams, will the Scottish Government commit to ensuring Scottish police officers and ambulance crews are given the protection, they both need and deserve?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “I’m not going to pre-empt any of those decisions completely but what I will say is yes, we will engage to support police officers and should there be that requirement for the ambulance service, them too.
“It is unacceptable that police officers or ambulance staff should be attacked or abused while going about their duty.
“So anything we can do to improve their safety, to help protect them and of course protect the general public, is important.
“We will continue to engage both with the police and with the ambulance service on these issues.”