POLICE Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House and his most senior officers have pledged to review the controversial decision to routinely deploy armed police officers.

Following months of pressure on the single force over its a­pparent radical change to ­policing practices, Sir Stephen will hold talks over the issue this autumn.

Deputy Chief Constable for Crime and Operational Support Iain Livingstone confirmed that a meeting then would discuss the motion from Highland Council, passed by 59 votes to nine, that the force should reconsider the matter in light of public concern.

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"It is part of a regular review process that exists and we will look at feedback from a local authority, but will also look at current intelligence, the criminal use of firearms and anything else emerging on a local, national or international basis."

He said "It is a matter of legitimate public interest. I absolutely accept that but as far as I am aware we in Police Scotland never received any complaints from a member of the public about the armed policing response in our 14 divisions, until the politicians and media highlighted and raised it."

Mr Livingstone rejected the charge that there had been a lack of public transparency over the issuing of standing authority to the small number of police officers to carry firearms. "There are currently 275 dedicated armed officers who are deployed on a shift basis across Scotland which means only a small number will be on duty at any one time.

"Put another way, for every 1000 officers there will be less than 10 officers.

"They are armed so that the other 17,000 officers don't need to be."

But he said that "a key priority" set for Police Scotland by the Scottish Parliament had been to ensure equity of access to specialist provision across the whole country to avoid a postcode lottery. "For example in Dumfries and Galloway there was not an armed response ­vehicle in place."

He stressed the issue of firearms had been thoroughly discussed with the board of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), just as the old police forces discussed issues such as the use of tasers and CS spray with their respective police boards. "The SPA is the body which provides the government with accountability for the new service."

He said the critical point was it was to deal with the "atypical incident - from responding to a robbery at gunpoint at ­book­makers in Inverness in March totackling a knife-wielding criminal who recently threatened the public and attacked officers on Edinburgh's busiest street".

Scottish Police Authority chairman Vic Emery said: "We have made clear that there is a need for ongoing information, transparency and reassurance on this issue.

"That is why the matter was the subject of detailed consideration at our last public meeting at the end of June."

"Public concerns, particularly in the north of Scotland, were real and an ongoing process of information and engagement was required to address them."

A spokesman for justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "The decision where and when to deploy resources has always been an operational matter for the chief constable, who has the power to make decisions about the necessary and proportionate use of firearms. That position has not changed."

The Scottish Police Federation backed the right of the Chief Constable to make operational decisions.

Meanwhile, the convener of Holyrood's Justice Committee, Christine Grahame, who also chairs the Justice sub-committee on policing, said they awaited answers to questions they had put into the police authority.

She added: "There is now perhaps a perception among the public about whether police are carrying guns too often or too openly because this could lead to a change in public attitudes."