POLICE Scotland are drawing up plans to be able to deal with 300 arrests each day at the COP26 conference – but estimated security costs have been cut to £180 million.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins told MSPs that the force is discussion with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) over whether the courts could deal with an influx in cases.

He also confirmed that Police Scotland believe up to 150 heads of state could attend the two-week event, which could include a large-scale demonstration in the middle weekend in Glasgow city centre.

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Mr Higgins said that the force will look to “increase the number of charge bars” in custody suits ahead of November’s event and that the number of people being processed “at any one time” could be as many as “300 a day”.

But he added: “To be clear, it is not my expectation that will happen over the course of a 14-day period, given the ebb and flow of the conference, but there may be days when the level of protest moves from peaceful protest to direct action and we will have to step in and take a more robust approach to it."

Mr Higgins told MSPs the force had originally anticipated using between 4,000 and 6,000 officers each day to deal with the global event.

While he still expects "several thousand officers to be deployed" daily, he said a change in planning assumptions has been agreed following a meeting with the Cop UK unit in London.

Under a "worst-case scenario", the bill for policing the gathering had previously been estimated to be as high as £250 million.

Mr Higgins said he "revisited the resource deployment plan" for the event following the London meeting.

He told Holyrood's Justice Sub-Committee on Policing it is now anticipated the cost will be £180 million.

Mr Higgins said: "That's simply because of the decision I took, ratified and endorsed by the Chief Constable, about the actual level of resources we need."

He added that he is “anticipating a rally to be held” by demonstrators in Glasgow in the middle weekend.

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He pledged that Police Scotland would “facilitate peaceful protest where at all possible” and said that environmental campaigners will “absolutely not be classed by Police Scotland as a terrorist threat”.

He added: "On a daily basis we will have public order officers deployed for public safety reasons, we will have conventional officers supporting the security operation at the person and vehicle search points.

"We will have other officers deployed, close protection officers if we have protected persons.

"We will have a firearms response there in terms of the wider threat from terrorism."

The number of police officers needed could change from day to day, he added, saying: "There are days when the big power countries will be coming in and heads of state will be giving keynote speeches, which will clearly increase the resources we deploy that day.

"Then there will be days when it is not so much the high-profile people but more business as usual.

"So our resources will flux up and down across the fortnight but on any given day I would expect several thousand officers to be deployed over a 24-hour period."

Mr Higgins was also quizzed on the potential impact on coronavirus on the COP26 event going ahead and he is still “working on the presumption that the conference will still go ahead”.

He said: “It currently forms part of our thinking around contingency.

“You could reasonably expect to lose 30 per cent of your workforce.”

He added: “It may have no impact at all, it may cause a delay, a postponement or it may cause the conference to be slimmed down in terms of who attends.

“Instead of having 30,000 delegates, we may find the conference only has the key policy-makers.”