Activists have called on the First Minister to intervene after ‘numerous incidents of abuse of powers’
Campaigners have raised concerns over the way police are treating protestors at COP26.
Civil society figures have written to the First Minister urging her to intervene to ensure that the right to protest is upheld and facilitated as movements gather to make their voices heard during the crucial talks.
The letter from the COP26 Coalition, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and the Climate Coalition highlights "the disproportionately high number of officers deployed, combined with intrusive police surveillance" which has created "an atmosphere of fear and intimidation" and "unacceptable chilling effect on the right to protest."
Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland on behalf of COP26 Coalition, said: "We are alarmed and deeply concerned about the approach the police are taking to peaceful protest around COP26. As we hurtle ever closer to climate catastrophe and negotiators determine the fate of billions around the world it is absolutely vital that civil society movements from Scotland, the UK and around the world are able to make their voices heard on the streets of Glasgow.
"Yet police are using intimidatory tactics and abusing their powers to stifle the fundamental right to peaceful protest. From the rent strikes here in Glasgow to women's suffrage and civil rights movements around the world, protest has played a vital role in pushing politicians to make the right decisions. As we stare planetary emergency in the face, that role is needed now more than ever."
Alistair Dutton, chief executive of SCIAF on behalf of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland Coalition, said: “It is crucial that people’s demands for climate justice are heard at COP, and civil society’s participation inside and outside the official spaces is essential for a good outcome. That includes protest, marches and other actions. We are very concerned by some of what we have seen from the police on the streets this week. With the Fridays for the Future march tomorrow and the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday, we are seeking reassurance that the police will support and facilitate our right to be heard.”
Assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said: “Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do. This means that we will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest at Cop26, balanced against the rights of the wider community.”
He added that “containment” was a “permitted policing tactic where a breach of the peace is taking place or reasonably thought to be imminent”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is fully supportive of the right to protest in a peaceful and lawful manner, and welcomes all contributions on how, together, we tackle the climate emergency. Police Scotland has engaged with a wide range of activist groups in advance of the conference in order to facilitate and support their right to peaceful protest.”