VIOLENT anarchists could descend on Glasgow to protest during Cop26, police have confirmed.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins told MPs that the force was planning for several groups of protesters to attend the 11-day event in November, including extremists and anarchists intent on violence.

He said the force had to be flexible enough to deal with peaceful protests or riots of the scale scene at Capitol Hill in Washington, when protestors stormed the US congress and destroyed parts of the building.

The Herald:

The police chief said climate activists, who would be prepared to chain themselves to bridges or block roads, were also being planned for, as well as those protesting against specific world leaders or businesses, and against climate change in general.

ACC Higgins was speaking to MPs at the Scottish Affairs Committee about the police response and security during the major global conference, due to take place in Glasgow later this year.

Also joining the session were Colin Edgar, head of Communications at Glasgow City Council, and Leon Thompson, Government and Parliamentary Affairs Manager at VisitScotland.

Asked by John Lamont, Scottish Conservative MP, about planning for protests at Cop26, Mr Higgins said: “Based on current intelligence some sort of demonstration is inevitable.”

The Herald:

He explained that he has identified four demographics of possible protestors, adding : “Category one is the concerned individual who will turn up with grandchildren or children and peacefully protest.

“The second group are individuals that will turn up to protest not necessarily about climate change, but they will protest against certain countries because of, maybe, their human rights record or certain individuals. For example the President of the United States will always attract some sort of protest because of the office that he holds.

“The third type is the climate activist who will not be afraid to engage in direct action to try and disrupt, so they may lock on to a bridge, abandon a vehicle, they may try and disrupt the conference.”

Mr Higgins said that the force would be “facilitating peaceful protest... to the best of our ability”, explaining that groups in the first three categories would be accommodated "as long as they are not obstructing the delivery of the conference."

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He then explained that “hard-line” protestors intent on violence were also planned for as part of his security response, adding: “The fourth type of individual is your hard-line anarchist, either extreme right wing or extreme left wing, who potentially will come regardless of the substance of the conference, intent on delivering serious acts of violence and disorder.

“The fourth category where it's individuals that are intent on engaging right from the get go, in acts of serious violence and disorder… our policing approach will be quite different to them.”

While acknowledging the risks associated with protesting during the pandemic, Mr Higgins said that the force would do “everything possible” to permit peaceful and safe protests and would reach out to organisers to offer help well in advance of any planned action.

He said: “If you consider some of the peaceful protests you've seen recently, and then contrast that with for example the protests in Capitol Hill in Washington that simply that's how flexible the policing plan has got to be. It's got to be flexible enough to facilitate the will for peaceful protests, but also be robust enough to repel any determined violent or riotous behaviour.”

The Herald: MP Pete Wishart chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee

The ACC told SNP MP Pete Wishart that Police Scotland officers would make up 60 per cent of the police response at the event, while the remaining 40% would be officers from other areas.

Despite this, he said, the force would be operating as close to “business as usual” in the rest of the country and vowed that emergency calls and serious incident calls would be prioritised and responded to as quickly as they currently are.

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Douglas Ross, MP for Moray, asked how he could guarantee other parts of Scotland would not be left in need if so many officers were being deployed to cover Cop26.

The Scottish Conservatives leader said: “If 60% of the policing is going to come from within Police Scotland, it's a long COP26 period - 11 days and it'll be time before and after, where there's an involvement with the police.

“Is it being honest to communities like Moray to say it will be absolutely business as usual, or should we understand that there will be a limitation in terms of what the police can do because of this major draw on the resources nationwide?”

Mr Higgins replied: "We have taken steps like cancelled annual leave for that period. Officers will no doubt be working beyond their normal hours, but  I cannot give an absolute guarantee that there won't be some impact on business as usual.”