Semper Vigilo (Always Watchful) – That’s the motto of Police Scotland’s West Dunbartonshire and Argyll officers led by Chief Superintendent John Paterson who, with their new powers, will be out in force around West Dunbartonshire and Argyll making certain people follow the coronavirus lockdown guidelines.
By Bill Heaney
Are you heading for Loch Lomondside, Balloch, Helensburgh or Luss today?
If you are going enjoy the Sunday sunshine and take in a brisk walk for your health’s sake, then take life by the hand and not by the throat .
Mind you go. Stay safe, and help to keep other safe too.
However, if you are intending going out to guzzle as many pints or as much fizzy wine as you can get over your throat before engaging in some territorial or sectarian violence then it might be a good idea for your own sake to think again.
Police Scotland will today have further powers to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and they will be out in force.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the powers were being introduced as a last resort in a bid to cut down on a “significant transmission risk” across the country.
But what are the new powers? Here we explain everything you need to know.
What can the police now do?
As of today, Police Scotland have the powers to break up house parties.
Under current guidance, no more than eight people from a maximum of three different households should be meeting indoors. That remains in place.
However, after taking account of varying sizes and compositions of families across Scotland, it will now be an offence for someone to have a party indoors in their house with more than fifteen people from more than one household present, with limited exceptions.
Why is this happening?
Nicola Sturgeon stressed the Scottish Government is “not trying to police your social life”, when she announced the new legislation.
Ms Sturgeon said the temptation to hold big indoor gatherings will be greater during the cold autumn and winter months ahead, and evidence shows they pose a “significant transmission risk”.
But she said the new powers will be a “last resort only” for use in the “most blatant breaches of the guidance.
She said: “I want to make it clear – particularity to young people – this is not about trying to stop people having fun.
“We are not trying to police your social life. Seeing and socialising with your friends is important, especially during what continues to be a very difficult period. But… it needs to be done safely and responsibly.”
When will this be reviewed?
As with all new coronavirus legislation, this will be reviewed every three weeks.
Does anyone disagree with the new laws?
The body representing rank-and-file officers has raised concerns over loopholes in the new powers.
David Hamilton, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), said the organisation was not consulted on the move by the Scottish Government and it has questioned how the new powers will work in practice.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, Mr Hamilton said: “The legislation was only published yesterday and we have a number of questions with that… we’ve identified a number of loopholes.
“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.”
Mr Hamilton said the SPF has concerns about how officers will know how many people are inside at a particular event, and how they can identify which households each attendee is from.
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 on Friday, would be seldom used and he described the new powers as being about “messaging”.
He said: “Fundamentally, this is a messaging bit of legislation.
“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 later said officers “would not hesitate” to use the powers if necessary, but such instances would be rare.
- Please don’t forget to use the public toilets where they are available.