Police Scotland “lied” to the Scottish Police Authority to “cover up their failures” when questioned on its policing of two protests during COP26, alleges a report by police monitoring network Netpol and campaign group Article 11.
It is now calling for an investigation by the Scottish Parliament, into alleged police intimidation, harassment and aggression during November’s UN climate conference in Glasgow.
However Police Scotland insists its policing was “proportionate and effective” and has commending officers on their performance during the “unprecedented” policing challenge presented by the event.
The claims centre around the use of two police kettles during climate talk protests – a controversial police tactic used to control demonstrations or large crowds, which sees officers surround the group to prevent them leaving except through a controlled exit.
The NetPol and Article 11 Trust report – Respect of Repression – details multiple witness statements which claim infants, adolescents, elderly people and those with serious health conditions and disabilities were kettled during the two incidents on 3 and 6 of November.
The research draws on 100 eye witness reports from the public and protesters as well legal observers. It also documents what it claims to be “arbitrary use of stop and search”, “aggressive” surveillance of protesters and “violent” policing of demonstrations.
Key findings revolve around the police “kettles” during which it claims people were refused exit for up to five hours without access to food, water, appropriate clothing, medication or toilets in adverse weather conditions. At the first some, including women, were forced to urinate in the street, according to reports.
At a Police Authority meeting, during which board members were given an update on policing during the climate talks, COP26 Gold Commander Bernard Higgins claimed “there was always an opportunity for people to leave” both police kettles.
“We weren’t holding them against their will,” he said, in response to a question about whether vulnerable people had been involved in police “containments” . “We assessed in both groups that there was no vulnerability.”
However multiple reports received by the campaign organisations claim bystanders were also caught up in both kettles and unable to leave. One woman said she was refused exit to attend a medical appointment for cancer treatment on 3 November.
The second kettle focused around the “containment” of the Young Communist League bloc taking part in the COP26 Coalition’s global day of action on climate justice march. Those caught up in the kettle included several young children and vulnerable people, including a mother with an infant in a pram, according to the report.