Police will not hesitate to use new powers which are to be brought in to enforce the coronavirus lockdown, Police Scotland’s Chief Constable has said.
Under strict new measures announced on Monday, people will only be allowed to leave home for a limited number of reasons, while non-essential shops have been told to close and public gatherings of more than two people are banned.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that police are to be given powers to fine those who breach the new measures, with the new powers expected to be introduced later in the week.
Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said that in the meantime, officers will rely on people complying with what they are asked to do, but warned people against disobeying the advice.
He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “In the interim, we will be relying on the consent, the support, the compliance of the public, and the vast, vast majority of the people of Scotland we think will do that and those that don’t, we’ll challenge them, and when the powers are enacted, we will have no hesitation in using those powers if people continue to defy what is very, very clear advice.”
Under the new measures, people are only allowed to leave home to shop for basic necessities, to take exercise once a day, for medical reasons, to care for a vulnerable person, or to travel to essential work that cannot be done at home.
Mr Livingstone said police are maintaining operations despite an increase in staff absences during the pandemic.
He said: “We have seen an increase in staff absences, both police officers and police staff, but at this point it hasn’t impacted on our ability to provide services, because we have started to move our officers and staff around, we’ve prioritised frontline response and at this stage, although absences are up and we will continue to monitor them, we are still in a position to provide policing right across the whole of this country.”
The Chief Constable said some officers have been redeployed from where they are no longer needed at airports, while they could also consider boosting numbers by deploying new recruits early after core training, or bringing back special constables.
He said: “At the moment, I think we have enough capability within the service as it is but I rule nothing out and if we need to go into retired officers we can and we could potentially bring them back as special constables.”
Asked how long he expects the situation to last, Mr Livingstone said: “It’s going to last as long as it takes the country to get through this enormous challenge from the coronavirus.”
He added: “We know this is not going to be a short-term critical incident running for three days or four days, a week, this is going to be a sustained period and we need to be ready for it.”