MORE than one-quarter of people in Scotland want police to take tougher action against those who flout lockdown rules, a survey has found. 

It came as Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said introducing different restrictions north and south of the Border would make policing “more challenging”. 

He also admitted some people in Scotland have been wrongly fined by police.

A survey commissioned by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) found almost half (46 per cent) of those questioned fully support the approach being taken by police.

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However, 28% thought officers should take tougher action to ensure public compliance. 

The survey suggested public support for the police is greater in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, and is higher than before the Covid-19 crisis.

During the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, Mr Livingstone revealed police had been “undertaking a number of plans and contingency planning” around changes in the lockdown restrictions.

He said: “If there is some level of easement in the public space, I would expect our officers to continue to do what they have been doing – which is to have visibility, have that preventative engagement with the public that they serve and continue to encourage people to adhere to the social distancing guidance for the broader public health imperative. 

“But, equally, there’s still going to be a requirement to ensure people are 
not gathering in public houses, in premises that should not be open, and that people are not gathering in large numbers in private.”

He added: “Undoubtedly it is a fair comment to say that if there are then differences in different parts of the United Kingdom – differences for that matter, potentially within the different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom – that would make the policing role more challenging.  

“But I’m still confident, very confident we will be able to respond to that. We have very, very close ties with all the communities that we serve. 

“We would be very clear that anything we do is always with the consent of the public, to support them, explain why there may be changes to the law and to ensure they do everything they can to maintain physical distancing and that we are there to support them and where necessary enforce the law.” 

Elsewhere, Mr Livingstone said he had “absolutely no doubt” some lockdown fines will have been issued incorrectly “given the demands on the police service, given the variance in human conduct that exists right across the whole of Scotland”.

He added: “When it has been brought to our attention and in all good faith a fixed penalty notice has been issued in circumstances that are inappropriate, that fixed penalty notice has been withdrawn.

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“We’ve apologised, we’ve spoken to the officers involved, we’ve spoken to the members of the public.”

Asked about newspaper claims that the police could set up road blocks to turn away English drivers in the event of a divergence in lockdown rules, Mr Livingstone said: “No, there’s no intention of doing that, I think that’s uninformed speculation. We have no intention of having any road blocks on the English and Scottish Border.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was “no point” having the lockdown guidance if the police felt they could not make people comply.

She added: “From the Government’s perspective, as we consider easing restrictions in the future, we take the view of Police Scotland on the enforceability and the practicality of the changes that we are considering.

“Police Scotland is an integral part of the approach we’re taking to assess different restrictions and how they may change in the future.”

The survey commissioned by the SPA found high levels of public support for Police Scotland’s powers to arrest and fine those who break lockdown rules and refuse to comply.

Meanwhile, 59% backed the police potentially using roadblocks, 33% supported the use of drone technology and 32% backed officers analysing social media accounts to identify those breaking rules. Almost one-quarter (22%) supported the idea of police naming and shaming offenders on social media.

A total of 1,660 people were surveyed by Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research Ltd at the end of last month.

David Crichton, vice chairman of the SPA, said: “It is the Authority’s view that we can take comfort and reassurance the police service is continuing to operate with the consent of, and support of, the majority of the public it serves.”