COP26: No annual leave for Police Scotland officers during conference

There will be no annual leave for Police Scotland officers during COP26 as Glasgow residents are promised a “business as usual” service.

Thousands of delegates will arrive in Glasgow in November for the major United Nations conference — a pivotal event in the fight against climate change.

The Queen has confirmed she will attend the conference, and Pope Francis is also reportedly set to visit during the event.

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Superintendent John McBride, who is involved in planning Police Scotland’s response, said the summit is “certainly the biggest event Police Scotland will have dealt with”.

But he added: “We can’t police it to the detriment of business as usual policing.”

During the conference, which runs from November 1-12, officers from across the UK will come to Glasgow for the event, but they will not be involved in day-to-day policing.

Supt McBride said: “A significant part of our planning has been to ensure when someone needs the police beyond the conference, they’d get the response they would get just now.

“There is no annual leave allowance for the duration of the event for Police Scotland officers. Anyone who needs time off goes through a robust process.

“If something happens, and it’s something that would be out of the norm. For instance, a police officer who happened to have a wedding arranged, clearly that’s something that would get time off.

“For the most part, every police officer at Police Scotland will either be on duty or available to be on duty.”

He said there will be disruptions in the city, but plans are “fairly mature” and will be publicised when ready. There won’t be an “unexpected road closure” for the people of Glasgow, he added.

“While there will be hundreds of police officers around the city centre and event space, it won’t be to the detriment of those folk that live in the outer areas of Glasgow.

“If you live on the periphery of the city and you call the police, you’ll get the police. You’ll see the police as you would normally.”

More than 40 per cent of calls to the police’s non-emergency 101 number were abandoned by callers in June — and it took an average of five minutes for calls to be answered.

Cllr Jill Brown said there was a “real risk” that city residents would associate the missed calls with “resources being diverted elsewhere”.

Speaking at a Safe Glasgow Partnership meeting, she said: “I don’t have any concerns about the policing [of COP26] because you’ve obviously done a huge amount of preparation, which is very reassuring.

“I’m concerned that the average resident of Glasgow won’t know the difference between the policing that’s being provided to COP26 and their call about anti-social behaviour to the 101 line on a Friday evening.”

Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland said a team is working hard to make sure there is “an operating model which provides a suitable and sustainable service during what is undoubtedly going to be a very challenging period”.

He added that Police Scotland has accepted some people have waited “longer than we would want” but is “one of the few emergency services that has continued to provide a non-emergency service during the pandemic”.

“We are also one of the few forces in the country that publishes our performance, and therefore is transparent and opens us up, quite rightly, to scrutiny on that performance.”

Ch Supt Sutherland said a reduction in social distancing in call centres from two metres to one metre would improve the 101 response.

“Unfortunately, we’re unlike other call centre providers who have been able to move to an at home service.

“The age of our systems and the way it sets up simply does not allow a transfer to home working for our contact centre.”

Supt McBride added during COP26 all the staff who work on the 101 service are also unable to take annual leave.

He said: “We’ve also ringfenced those staff, so if any member of police staff or any police officer working in that arm of policing that we’d ordinarily want to utilise during the conference, we’re not.”