On 24 September, Scottish Green Party MSPs received some good news. It came after Police Scotland confirmed it no longer planned to label anti-fracking protesters as “domestic extremists”. The Ferret reported on 16 September that Police Scotland had previously included those who peacefully oppose fracking “alongside banned neo-Nazi terrorist groups, Scottish Dawn and National Action”.
.@patrickharvie asks the First Minister about the rights of fracking campaigners, who have been labelled “domestic extremists” by Police Scotland@NicolaSturgeon says she will always respect the right of people making peaceful protests #FMQs pic.twitter.com/I4EWSlm3M2
— BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) September 20, 2018
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed, saying that she defended the rights of peaceful campaigners.
Police Scotland and Green MSPs
As The National reports, a senior Police Scotland official has now written to the Scottish Parliament’s justice sub-committee on policing. He did so to clarify the labelling of anti-fracking protesters. Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry Mclean wrote:
The Police Scotland Annual Police Plan for 2017/18 did contain the following commentary: ‘There continues to be protests around shale oil and gas extraction and unconventional oil and gas extraction, and unconventional oil and gas extraction, both commonly referred to as ‘fracking’.’
This paragraph was contained within a wider and diverse section of the annual police plan under the heading of Domestic Extremism.
He went on to say:
Police Scotland does not consider any form of lawful and peaceful protest to constitute domestic extremism; however, we accept that from a presentational perspective a misinterpretation of this position may have been given from the way this small section of the annual police plan was worded and presented.
No such reference is contained in the current Annual Police Plan for 2018/19
Scottish Green Party MSP and justice sub-committee on policing convener John Finnie welcomed the actions of Police Scotland:
The right to lawful and peaceful protest is an integral part of our society.
Law-abiding citizens who wish to protest peacefully should not have to be concerned about the threat – perceived or real – of being labelled a domestic extremist.
Finnie took to Twitter to share the developments:
On 19th I wrote Police Scotland https://t.co/HeeTarhbqc re their branding of protesters 'Domestic Extremists'. Their explanation https://t.co/9wVR9ERojC and removal of that offensive language is welcome. #peacefulprotest
— John Finnie MSP ? (@JohnFinnieHI) September 24, 2018
Pressure group Frackfree_EU also tweeted, sharing the “good news from Scotland”:
Good news from Scotland following last week's #FMQs on this issue!
Green MSP John Finnie, the sub-committee convener, welcomed the clarification:
"Changing the wording in the Annual Police Plan to remove this inference is exactly the right thing to do.”https://t.co/kxVBKbSUg5
— frackfree_eu (@frackfree_eu) September 24, 2018
So it’s a victory for anti-fracking protesters across Scotland and for the Scottish Green Party MSPs. Furthermore, let’s hope Police Scotland has set a precedent for other police forces across the UK.
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Featured Image via BBC Scotland News/Twitter
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