‘Spycops’ scandal remains an issue in the new Scottish Parliament
CALLS TO EXTEND the undercover policing inquiry to Scotland have now been backed by the Home Secretary’s own party, as the Scottish Conservatives added to the cross-party demands.
The Tories at Holyrood now join Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs in calling for an extension of the inquiry’s remit – or, failing this, a separate Scottish investigation.
A Scottish Conservatives spokesperson told the Sunday Herald: “We support the extension of the Pitchford Inquiry to Scotland. If, for some reason, it cannot be extended, we would like the Scottish Government to set up its own.”
The judge-led inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s disgraced undercover policing units was ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May after it was revealed that undercover officers had spied on legitimate campaigners such as the family of Stephen Lawrence, and that officers had pursued sexual relationships with women they were targeting.
Officers from both the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) are the focus of the inquiry, which is led by Sir Christopher Pitchford. However, deployments of these officers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will not be considered under the current terms of the inquiry.
This is despite substantial evidence of deployments of undercover officers, such as Mark Kennedy, an NPOIU officr who was deployed to Scotland at least fourteen times and played a key role in the G8 protests. Investigative unit The Ferret recently uncovered evidence of links between senior Scottish police officers and the secret policing units.
During the previous parliamentary term at Holyrood, a group of MSPs including Labour’s Neil Findlay and the Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes put pressure on the Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson over the issue, and cross-party support increased, leading Matheson to eventually write to Theresa May late last year.
The Scottish Government has said since Janury that discussions between itself and the Home Secretary are “ongoing” as to Pitchford’s possible extension.
The inquiry has so far held several hearings to determine its remit and participants. Lawyers for the Metropolitan police have argued that large parts of the hearings shoul be held in secret, leading to protests by campaigners and calls for the books to be opened on undercover deployments.
The Metropolitan police maintains a “neither confirm nor deny” position with regard to identities of all undercover officers. Evidence gathered by campaigners and journalists has uncovered thirteen officers so far; there are thought to have been up to one hundred.
Picture courtesy of MissyKel