How will the Cop26 climate conference be policed?

The Cop26 climate conference is “the most complex and complicated operation we’ll ever have seen in Britain”, according to the Police Scotland officer in charge of it.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins also said Operation Urram will see “the greatest mass mobilisation of police officers from across the UK” descend on Glasgow for the three-week event later this year.

Mr Higgins and Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr detailed the force’s plans for the event during a media briefing on Thursday at the Scottish Police College in Kincardine, Fife.

Tulliallan Castle
The Scottish Police College at Tulliallan Castle (Douglas Barrie/PA)

What is happening?

Cop26 is a major climate conference which will be held at Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) from October 31 to November 12, having been postponed from last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK Government – and indeed many delegates according to Mr Higgins – wanted the conference to go ahead in-person rather than online, hence the delay.

How many delegates are coming to Glasgow?

Each member of the United Nations has been invited, meaning nearly 120 heads of state are expected to attend along with around 20,000 accredited delegates.

The perimeter of the conference is expected to run from the Finnieston Crane by the SSE Hydro and main SEC building, right along the River Clyde and Clydeside Expressway to the Riverside Museum.

Mr Higgins said it will “effectively become a bubble” with the SEC known as the Blue Zone.

It comes under UN control with its own security personnel and while not international territory, it will come under Scots law if a crime takes place.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis could travel to Glasgow for the Cop26 conference (Danny Lawson/PA)

Is that what makes it so “complex and complicated”?

Partly. Delegates will be staying in hotels around 40 to 50 miles away – as far as St Andrews, Perth and Edinburgh as well as Glasgow.

Mr Higgins said US President Joe Biden is among those confirmed to attend, while police believe Pope Francis could also travel to Glasgow.

He said: “If you take the two most iconic world leaders, the president and the pontiff, and put them in one place then the likelihood is that that will absolutely encourage a significant number of other world leaders to attend.”

At the recent G7 event in Cornwall, 11 world leaders including Mr Biden attended.

Where will police be deployed?

Officers will come from across the country and while a host force would normally have around a third of their own police involved, Mr Higgins said Police Scotland is contributing 45% of the numbers required for Cop26.

Several thousand officers will arrive each day in a phased approach and “it won’t be shy of around 10,000 in total”, he said, with a variable number working each day depending on what events take place.

All officers will be stationed at a home or hotel close to where they are patrolling so they can walk to their deployment area and cut as much vehicle usage as possible.

They will also be given reusable coffee cups or water bottles to cut down on waste.

Bernard Higgins
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins is in charge of Cop26 policing (Andrew Milligan/PA)

What is involved in Operation Urram?

As well as policing the area – and the rest of the country while Cop26 goes on – the main planning has gone into dealing with protests.

Police Scotland has been working with groups in a “No Surprises” approach, which other forces will also work to on their arrival in Glasgow.

Mr Higgins detailed four types of protesters police expect at the event: children, for children day, who are expected to be peaceful and compliant; individual protests against a certain country or issue not related to the conference itself; activists taking non-violent direct action related to the conference; and anarchists who will be looking to cause violence regardless of the conference.

He admitted the challenge is being able to plan for these concurrently.

Why is it called Operation Urram?

Mr Higgins said Urram is Gaelic for “respect”, adding this includes respecting the “rights of people that may wish to come and peacefully protest and to facilitate that peaceful protest”.