Knowledge Gaps In Counter Terrorism Strategy

24 January 2016, 07:26 | Updated: 24 January 2016, 07:31

Police have identified ''knowledge gaps'' in Scotland's counter-terrorism strategy, according to a classified police paper.

Police and partner authorities have also yet to draw up a consistent list of vulnerable sites, the force's civilian watchdog has been told.

The private paper, seen by the Press Association after it was published in error on the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) website, provides an update on Scotland's compliance with the UK counter-terrorism strategy known as Contest.

Police found ''knowledge gaps'' in some councils, which it expects will be replicated elsewhere, and it is now developing counter-terrorism training tools for people such as health workers, police and teachers.

Police Scotland has continued to keep armed police off routine duties following an outcry about them attending minor incidents and shopping with visible firearms.

The SPA said this position reflects ''the current threat level'' but warned ''this threat level is very unlikely to change for the better in the current environment''.

Contest covers four themes: Pursue, the investigation and disruption of terrorist attacks; Prevent, to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism and extremism; Protect, improving protective security to stop a terrorist attack; and Prepare: working to minimise the impact of an attack and to recover from it as quickly as possible.

Police and partners have also been urged to use an exercise called Operation Archer, a fictitious terrorist incident featuring mock TV new bulletins and arrests, which is designed to ''demystify'' the Contest strategy.

In an update to the SPA, Police Scotland said: ''The rollout of the ERTLPs (Emerging and Residual Threat Local Profiles) has identified that there are knowledge gaps within local authorities which it is anticipated will be replicated with other partners.''

In response, Police Scotland refreshed its counter-terrorism implementation plan ''to identify which members of their staff require awareness-raising inputs on Prevent''.

It added: ''Police Scotland will thereafter support Prevent partners with the creation and development of new sector-specific products, i.e. those bespoke to individual organisations such as health workers, ACC Crime OCCT (Assistant Chief Constable Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit) or school teachers.''

Counter-terrorism security advisers (CTSAs) have also been urged to ''identify all vulnerable sites at a local policing level''.

Police Scotland told the SPA: ''Work continues within the 3 EERP (Emergency, Event and Resilience Planning) areas to identify a common minimum standard or consistent view in relation to the sites which require to be monitored nationally. This is referred to as the Gap Analysis.

''It is anticipated that this work may highlight sites that still require the creation of plans and this work is ongoing.''

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has recommended Police Scotland and the SPA ''should re-engage with local authorities and other stakeholders and develop criteria for ARV (armed response vehicle) officers to undertake non-firearm duties which are understood and accepted by local communities and allow ARV officers to meaningfully contribute to local policing priorities.''

An SPA update stated: ''While Police Scotland leads have been re-engaging with local community interests (largely local scrutiny committees) this has been on the current position (reflecting the current threat level) where armed police are NOT out on routine business.

''This threat level is very unlikely to change for the better in the current environment and so it is very unlikely that there will be any movement on the engagement envisaged for some considerable time.''

The updates were presented to the SPA's Audit and Risk Committee. Following inquiries by the Press Association, the updates were removed from the website.

The paper also disclosed a disagreement between Police Scotland's estates and custody divisions over a plan to close Scotland's busiest custody facility for a six-month upgrade, and a plan to rollout virtual notepads in control rooms to replace the paper ''scribble pads'' that were criticised by Police inspectorate following two deaths on the M9.

An SPA spokeswoman said: ''The original Police Scotland Improvement tracker incorporated detailed additional information requested by members of the committee in support of their consideration of this item and the public paper.

''The additional detailed information was protectively marked and was not for public consumption. It was uploaded on to the SPA website in error. It has since been removed and replaced with the public version.''

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: ''The paper contained protectively marked information which was uploaded on to the SPA website in error and this was spotted and corrected after a media inquiry was received.

''Police Scotland continues to work with HMICS and SPA to ensure we provide a continually improving level of policing services to communities across Scotland.

''The public should be confident that Police Scotland's priority is to ensure their safety and security; we want people to be alert but not alarmed.

''We constantly review security plans taking into account specific intelligence and the wider threat.''