Con­cern voiced over ter­ror threat

The Oban Times - - Front Page -

SAFETY on the West Coast’s fer­ries and in ru­ral ar­eas will be dis­cussed at a govern­ment level, af­ter a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer voiced fears over the force’s abil­ity to deal with ter­ror at­tacks, writes Louise Glen.

The Oban Times raised the mat­ter with is­lands and trans­port min­is­ter Humza Yousaf when he vis­ited Mull this week.

As Counter Ter­ror­ism Aware­ness Week was launched across Scot­land, Mr Yousaf said he was con­cerned to hear that staff work­ing on trans­port sys­tems and in ru­ral po­lice of­fices were be­ing put in the fir­ing line.

Many staff mem­bers and po­lice of­fi­cers who have ap­proached

The Oban Times feel they have noth­ing to use against ter­ror­ists if the un­think­able were to hap­pen.

Is­land and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are con­sid­ered ‘soft tar­gets’ by ter­ror­ists, but as one se­nior Ar­gyll po­lice of­fi­cer ex­plained off the record: ‘We have none of the re­sources re­quired to meet the threat of a ter­ror at­tack.

‘Po­lice armed units are at least an hour away by he­li­copter and three hours by road.

‘All we have here is a ve­hi­cle to drive at peo­ple. That leaves us in a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion and leaves staff ill-equipped to cope with a re­sponse in the fir­ing line.’

It is un­der­stood that un­til now the ma­jor­ity of firearms staff are based in the two ma­jor cities in Scot­land.

North Ar­gyll has a num­ber of strate­gic fa­cil­i­ties and events that have been iden­ti­fied as soft tar­gets for ter­ror­ists. Ferry ter­mi­nals, strate­gic routes, events such as Oban Live and Oban Air­port are all rel­a­tively lightly pro­tected.

Con­cerns have been raised by staff across the area that there is lit­tle or no se­cu­rity to check peo­ple, bags and ve­hi­cles be­fore ac­cess­ing fer­ries, buses or trains.

Mr Yousaf said: ‘Af­ter a few tragic weeks, it has been im­per­a­tive that we re­view safety. That re­view led us to con­sider the num­ber of armed of­fi­cers and in the weeks to come we will be de­ploy­ing in­creased num­ber of per­son­nel at ports and air­ports to make sure peo­ple are as safe as pos­si­ble. But the key mes­sage is that we want to hear peo­ple’s con­cerns about safety. We are still liv­ing in a “crit­i­cal” time and other at­tacks may be im­mi­nent.

‘But I want to re­as­sure ev­ery­one that the con­cerns raised to­day will be taken back by me to my col­leagues.’

This week, Po­lice Scot­land launched a week of ac­tion to pro­mote counter-ter­ror­ism ac­tiv­ity. Un­til Sun­day June 18, spe­cial­ist and lo­cal of­fi­cers will work to­gether with other part­ners to un­der­take a range of ac­tiv­i­ties through­out Scot­land, aimed at pro­vid­ing the pub­lic with use­ful in­for­ma­tion to help de­ter ter­ror­ism and keep them safe in the event of a ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent.

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