Cops’ U-turn on policing traffic at public events

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Police Scotland appears to have reversed its decision to take a back seat on traffic management duties for public events like gala days.

At a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive committee earlier today, Councillor David Alexander stated Police Scotland had agreed – for the time being – to go back to the status quo with regards to traffic management of public events until the issue is fully resolved.

Councillor Alexander: “The issue is still on the table – it’s still to be fully addressed.”

Councillor Dennis Goldie said: “It’s a good outcome for everyone – a good result for gala days and people in the area.”

The force attended a meeting last week with the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and shelved the move away from the traffic policing responsibility, agreeing to revert to its previous position.

ACC Nelson Telfer said: “Police Scotland met with representatives of COSLA and the Scottish Government on March 8 as we work towards resolving the legal issues surrounding Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTRO).

“However, in the interim we have reverted to our previous position that local arrangements will be made between divisional commanders and local authorities. This will ensure appropriate arrangements are in place to maintain public safety around marches and sporting events.”

Just last October, Police Scotland wrote to the council to advise that officers will no longer regulate traffic at events which have not been granted a TTRO.

This relates to events requiring road closures and traffic management, including gala days, religious parades and peaceful demonstrations.

Under current legislation, police officers have the power to regulate traffic while dealing with emergencies or where crime is being committed.

However, it does not enable officers to regulate traffic for pre-planned events, which rests with the local roads authorities – local governments and Scottish Government with regards trunk roads.

Police Scotland recommended event organisers work with the local roads authority to put the necessary TTRO and appropriate traffic management plans in place.

At the time assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said: “Local policing is at the heart of Police Scotland, as is our focus of keeping people safe. However, existing legislation does not contain powers to enable police to regulate traffic for pre-planned events.

“Police officers have previously assisted organisers of such events by closing off roads, controlling traffic and ensuring public safety on an informal basis but, crucially, without lawful authority.

“We will continue to be fully supportive of future community events but must support and assist organisers within the confines of legislation.”

This stance by police was nothing new – at a meeting of Grangemouth Community Council in May 2016, Police Scotland’s Falkirk area commander told residents the force had to “draw a line somewhere” when it came to issues like traffic management at public events.

At that time Chief inspector Damian Armstrong confirmed Police Scotland’s stance on policing pre-planned events.

He said: “It’s a difficult situation, but we’ve got to draw the line somewhere in terms of what we can do and what we cannot do. We don’t have a legal responsibility for the closure of roads or the enforcement of traffic restrictions at pre-planned events.

“It’s not a withdrawal by police. We make a risk assessment based on the events themselves. We don’t expect trouble at these events but we are prepared if there is any.” Later at that meeting Chf Insp Armstrong admitted: “We are all struggling, as public services, with budgetary concerns.”

His statement came in the same week Police Scotland was accused of washing its hands of its responsibilities by members of Falkirk Council. They responded angrily to Police Scotland’s announcement it is not going to be carrying out traffic management duties at community events like gala days in the future – claiming it did not have the authority to enforce the law at such events.

A letter from Police Scotland, which the council received on April 22, 2016, stated: “It is acknowledged that previously police officers may have assisted organisers of such events by closing off roads, controlling traffic and generally ensuring the safety of the public for the duration of an event.

“This appears to have been done on goodwill and on an informal basis but without authority. Police Scotland has no desire to jeopardise the future of community events, but responsibility and activity must be restricted to and in keeping with the limitations of current legislation.”

Members heard the police do have authority to manage traffic when a “spontaneous” incident like a road accident happens – but not for pre-planned events. This led to the council undertaking a review of it’s approach to these events. looking at issues like the cost of applying for a Temporary Traffic Restriction Order (TTRO).

At the time, director of development services Rhona Geisler said: “If the police are not going to regulate the traffic then the organisers have to apply to the council for a TTRO, then they have to have people physically in place to manage the traffic.

“Organisers will be required to provide relevant traffic management on the ground to ensure safety. Police Scotland will still have a presence at big events but they will only be there for the purpose of managing public order.”