Police Scotland will employ the same tactics at Cop26 as those used during mass gatherings in Glasgow earlier this month – but on a larger scale.
Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said thousands of protesters are expected as the city hosts the UN climate change talks in November.
Officers are already speaking to potential demonstrators to “facilitate and support” their right to peaceful protest, he revealed, while also preparing for those who intend solely to cause disruption or be violent.
Mr Kerr was speaking to the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) board meeting in the wake of recent large-scale gatherings in Glasgow – a demonstration to prevent the deportation of two men by immigration officers and violent clashes involving Rangers fans in George Square.
Looking ahead to the 13-day summit in November, Mr Kerr said: “The tactics for Cop26 and the operational tools and resources that we have will be exactly the same, it will just be at a different scale.
“We had all the public order assets out on May 15 (for Rangers fans), the issue for us and the issue for operational commanders on the ground is when and how we choose to use those operational tools, particularly the public order resources, and when is the best time to use them, and to intervene in a way that doesn’t actually do any more harm.
“It’s about engaging with the widest range of protesters that we possibly can in advance of Cop26 so that we can differentiate between the vast majority of people who will come to that event who want to legitimately lawfully protest – and we will facilitate and support the right to do so – from a small minority who will want to come and fight or cause disruption and damage, and we will deal with them.
“So the whole point of this engagement is to make sure that we have an open environment and facilitated discussion with as many of those groups as possible.”
Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone added: “Our approach to policing Cop26 will be consistent with our approach to policing during the pandemic, it will be consistent with our approach to investigating murders and serious crime, it will be consistent with our approach to helping those in crisis with mental illness or through drug addiction.
“It will be consistent with our approach to policing protests, it will be consistent with our approach to policing in every community in Scotland every moment of every day.”
Asked what lessons were learned from the immigration protest and policing the Rangers fans that could apply to the climate change summit, Mr Kerr said the force need to communicate more effectively on social media.
He suggested a “subjective” and incorrect narrative was formed about the police’s actions, and added: “There’s almost a need from us to have a bit of attritional, factual, counter-narrative out there so that those who misinterpret events and create more community tension can’t do so because we are constantly putting out a chain of factual information that explains exactly what’s going on, what’s happening, what the police are responding and why the police are responding in the way they are.”