THE UNION representing officers has warned that there are “a number of loopholes” in new powers allowing police to break up house parties.

Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that police have been given new powers to disperse indoor gatherings made up of more than 15 people.

But David Hamilton, the chaiman of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), says his organisation has not been consulted over the expansion of powers and issues front-line officers will face when carrying out the duty.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, he said: “The legislation was only published yesterday and we have a number of questions with that… we’ve identified a number of loopholes.

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“We didn’t get any consultation on this at SPF, so we have a number of questions we’ve put back to Government, but hopefully we can work something out about what that means and what they’re meaning with this legislation.

“We’ll also work with Police Scotland in terms of developing that operational guidance.”

He added: “This is the type of thing – how do you know from the outside what’s on the inside?

“There’s a number of questions we have about that.”

Mr Hamilton claimed the legislation, which came into force today, would likely be used sparingly and he described the new powers as being about “messaging”.

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He added: “We don’t expect to see it being used frequently and we’ll continue with the approach of educating and engaging people without having to use powers.”

Mr Hamilton said officers “would not hesitate” to use the powers if necessary, but such instances would be rare.

Both the First Minister and Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said that the powers will be used as a “last resort”, with officers favouring an approach based on engagement with the public.

Mr Livingstone said it was “vital” that people stick to the rules.

He added: “In essence, don’t arrange or attend large house parties, please meet in smaller groups.”

The Chief Constable said that “the vast majority” of people have adhered to the rules throughout the pandemic and he thanked the people of Scotland for that, going on to say that officers will ensure to work with members of the public instead of using powers aggressively.

He added: “We will act with courtesy and common sense to maintain that relationship of confidence and trust we have with out fellow citizens.”

Mr Livingstone said he hopes the SPF agrees the legislation, as with all legislation on policing during the pandemic, was passed on “public health grounds”.

He added: “What’s been clear is that indoor house parties have a high likelihood of transmission and therefore the introduction of this new offence, the introduction of a power of entry under certain conditions, are clearly necessary for that public health imperative.”

Mr Livingstone also said he will continue to work with the SPF as guidance is developed.