An independent review of undercover policing activities in Scotland is to be carried out by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland. 

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson directed the move after the UK Government refused to amend to the scope of the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing in England & Wales, despite evidence suggesting that units from south of the border operate in Scotland.

The Pitchford Inquiry was set up amid concerns that activities by undercover officers had led to miscarriages of justice, with some officers having entered into relationships with people they were keeping under surveillance.

There was cross-party support in Scotland for its remit being extended to Scotland, but UK ministers maintained that this could not be done.

Mr Matheson has now accepted opposition calls for a separate Scottish inquiry.

He commented: “I am firmly of the view that an extension of the Pitchford Inquiry’s terms of reference to cover the activities of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad in Scotland is still the right thing to do and am disappointed that the UK Government has refused to do so.

“Given the operational extent of those units, the Scottish Government believes that a single coherent inquiry is the most effective approach to provide a comprehensive investigation into these activities. However, in light of the Home Office’s decision I have today directed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to undertake a strategic review of undercover policing in Scotland.

“This will cover the extent and scale of undercover policing in Scotland, both as it stands and dating back to when the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 came into force. It will also consider undercover police operations carried out in Scotland by the NPOIU and SDS in the same period.

“This review will also give independent assurance on the operation, procedures and safeguards in place by Police Scotland in relation to undercover policing.”