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Scottish police fear for safety if sent to Northern Ireland after no-deal Brexit

PSNI officers close to the scene of the bomb attack at Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh
PSNI officers close to the scene of the bomb attack at Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh

A group representing Scottish police has expressed concern for the safety of officers who could be sent to Northern Ireland to help maintain order in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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It comes after PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne confirmed that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a request for "mutual aid" from other UK police services to manage issues, including the border.

It is believed up to 300 police officers from Scotland would initially be called upon to assist the PSNI if required, with further numbers from forces including London's Metropolitan police on standby.

Police officers from other UK forces have assisted in Northern Ireland in the past, including during the 2013 G8 summit in Fermanagh.

The Times has reported that Scottish officers have been given training in PSNI public order tactics to prepare them if they are deployed to Northern Ireland.

The Scottish Policing Federation has expressed concern for the safety of officers sent to Northern Ireland and said that PSNI officers would be better equipped to deal with any terrorist activity.

General Secretary Calum Steele called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do everything he could to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"The risk of a no-deal Brexit to police officers working in Northern Ireland, regardless of what part of the United Kingdom they are from, is an unacceptable risk, and everything humanly possible should be done to avoid a no-deal Brexit," he said.

“While Scottish police have been through training in Northern Ireland public order tactics, the simple reality is that our officers are not armed when they go to Northern Ireland and are not trained to the same level of terrorism awareness as officers in Northern Ireland.

“They are slightly less able to identify the threats as immediately as those officers in the theatre because they don’t have the same training in counterterrorism.”

PSNI at the scene of the attack on the Cavan Road in Fermanagh
PSNI at the scene of the attack on the Cavan Road in Fermanagh

Mr Steele said that Scottish police had been sent to Northern Ireland "once or twice in the past couple of years", but that the current situation posed a greater risk to officers.

“The reintroduction of the tactic of deliberately targeting officers and laying booby-trap bombs, or bombing locations where they are going to be, changes the dynamic significantly,” he said.

"This year alone I think there has been five attempts on the lives of police officers in Northern Ireland, you have only got to look at the recent bombing attempts in Fermanagh and Armagh to see that activity is becoming more prevalent."

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said that the safety of police officers should be taken under consideration while making any decision around mutual aid.

“Mutual aid is an operational matter for the chief constable, who has informed the Scottish Police Authority that as part of EU exit planning, the provision of mutual aid assistance to wider UK policing will be considered, should this be requested," he said.

“The reality is the UK is not, and cannot be, ready for a no-deal EU exit on October 31. The safety and wellbeing of our police officers is paramount and we know such an outcome could exacerbate tensions in Northern Ireland. This is just another reason why it should be avoided.”

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