THERE was a time when police forces across the UK had widely varying rules about officers carrying guns and some posed legitimate questions about public safety and civil liberties.

Think The Sweeney or Life on Mars.

But in the 1980s the practice spread of making trained firearms officers keep their guns in locked boxes within their vehicles, with authorisation required to utilise these. But the time constraints and safety considerations of breaking out the weapons and loading them in a confined space came to be seen as a bad idea and the view spread that it was better practice for those same officers to carry their weapons.

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Each Scottish force had its own rules but in 2008 Strathclyde moved away from locked boxes to authorised officers carrying their own holstered weapons, followed by Tayside in 2009 and Northern Constabulary last year, just before the amalgamation into a single force.

Chief Constable Stephen House has since put in place a single set of rules for the whole force, meaning those firearms specialists are more visible on our streets.