SECURITY experts have warned that Scotland could be a “soft target” for terrorists as an umbrella group of Muslim organisations admitted they must be “much more vigilant”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted people “should not be unduly concerned” and offered reassurances that there is no specific threat in Scotland.

However, Dr Andrew Neal, senior lecturer, politics and international relations at the University of Edinburgh, and co-director of the Centre for Security Research (CeSeR), said: “I don’t think there’s any reason for Scotland to be any different to England. Scottish people serve in the armed forces, Scotland is as much part of UK foreign military policy as England. Conceivably, any narratives of injustice or grievance against the UK could apply just as much to Scotland.

“Manchester and Glasgow are very similar, both big UK cities. You could envisage the exact same thing happening at a Glasgow pop arena as a Manchester one.”

Glasgow Airport was attacked in 2007. Neal also took a swipe at the First Minister’s stance on security. He said: “Part of Nicola Sturgeon’s politics is to differentiate us from the UK Government, and the Tory Government in particular. It’s the nature of the politics we’re in. Her position feeds into the wider SNP narrative that Scotland is different to the UK, and Scotland would be seen as less threatening, less of a source of grievance.”

Counter-terrorism expert Charles Bird also warned that Scotland is now more at risk following the recent attack in Manchester. Bird worked for the UK Government, including the Ministry of Defence, for a number of years, and is now based at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University. He said: “We’ve seen from the attack on Manchester that they are quite prepared to go for soft targets. If they are associated with IS it is a reflection of what’s going on in Syria and Iraq, where we’ve seen they don’t hesitate to target women and children. There are no limits.

“If you take that on board you have to assess there is a risk in Scotland because, as targets get hardened, terrorists always look for softer, more accessible targets. We are now more at risk.”

Allan Burnett, former Assistant Chief Constable with responsibility for Counter Terrorism, echoed the concern. Meanwhile, Liaquat Ali of the Muslim Council of Scotland (MCS), an umbrella group of Islamic organisations, said mosques need to be “much more vigilant. If there is suspicion and people acting out of context it is the responsibility of the organisation to deal with it. That’s the way it should be if it’s being done under our roofs”.

A source at one of Scotland’s biggest mosques, who asked not to be named, said some Muslims can be reluctant to raise the alarm.

The Sunday Herald asked the Justice Minister Michael Matheson for comment. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, Mr Matheson isn’t available.”

Police Scotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley said armed police will continue to patrol the streets. He added: “Our policing operation will gradually be scaled back in keeping with the UK-wide operation.”