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Safety on the West Coast’s ferries and in rural areas will be discussed at a government level, after a senior police officer voiced fears over the force’s ability to deal with terror attacks, writes Louise Glen.
The Oban Times raised the matter with islands and transport minister Humza Yousaf when he visited Mull this week.
As Counter Terrorism Awareness Week was launched across Scotland, Mr Yousaf said he was concerned to hear that staff working on transport systems and in rural police offices were being put in the firing line.
Many staff members and police officers who have approached The Oban Times feel they have nothing to use against terrorists if the unthinkable were to happen.
Island and rural communities are considered ‘soft targets’ by terrorists, but as one senior Argyll police officer explained off the record: ‘We have none of the resources required to meet the threat of a terror attack.
‘Police armed units are at least an hour away by helicopter and three hours by road.
‘All we have here is a vehicle to drive at people. That leaves us in a vulnerable position and leaves staff ill-equipped to cope with a response in the firing line.’
It is understood that until now the majority of firearms staff
are based in the two major cities in Scotland.
North Argyll has a number of strategic facilities and events that have been identified as soft targets for terrorists. Ferry terminals, strategic routes, events such as Oban Live and Oban Airport are all relatively lightly protected.
Concerns have been raised by staff across the area that there is little or no security to check people, bags and vehicles before accessing ferries, buses or trains.
Mr Yousaf said: ‘After a few tragic weeks, it has been imperative that we review safety. That review led us to consider the number of armed officers and in the weeks to come we will be deploying increased number of personnel at ports and airports to make sure people are as safe as possible. But the key message is that we want to hear people’s concerns about safety. We are still living in a “critical” time and other attacks may be imminent.
‘But I want to reassure everyone that the concerns raised today will be taken back by me to my colleagues.’
This week, Police Scotland launched a week of action to promote counter-terrorism acti-
vity. Until Sunday June 18, specialist and local officers will work together with other partners to undertake a range of activities throughout Scotland, aimed at providing the public with useful information to help deter terrorism and keep them safe in the event of a terrorist incident.