The Scottish First Minister said anti-fracking campaigners should not be considered domestic extremists, despite reports that they’d been labelled so by Police Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon said:
“I do not consider that people who protest against nuclear weapons, or fracking, or anything else in a peaceful democratic way to be extremists in any sense and I would not expect anyone to consider them to be extremists.”
She defended the right to protest:
“People should have the right to protest as long as they do so peacefully.
“It applies to people campaigning and protesting against fracking or any other issue.”
The issue was raised at First Minister’s Questions this morning by the Scottish Green co-convenor, Patrick Harvie. He told MSPs:
“We have known for years that environmental campaigners, along with peace activists and others, have in the past been spied on or infiltrated by police forces in the UK including in Scotland. But this statement of current practice is shocking.
“Anti fracking campaigners who exercise their democratic right to protest are heroes yet Police Scotland is labelling them as domestic extremists.”
The issue was first reported earlier this month by SpinWatch. It said the Police Scotland annual report for 2017-2018 had labelled anti-fracking campaigners and hunt saboteurs as “domestic extremists”. The force said it would:
“continue to closely monitor individuals and groups that are involved/suspected to be involved in the DE [domestic extremism] arena and explore all opportunities to disrupt and detect their activities”.
In the Falkirk region, which houses the Ineos Grangemouth petrochemicals plant, the Local Police Plan 2017-20 described anti-fracking protest as a potential threat in its discussion of ‘counter-terrorism’ risk. It also listed an objective of intelligence gathering:
“Seeking the support of communities to develop the national intelligence picture around terrorism, domestic extremism and potential protests around fracking, shale oil and gas extraction given the nature of our commercial business infrastructure located in the Grangemouth area.”
Mr Harvie dismissed suggestions that this was merely an operational matter for Police Scotland. He said the category “domestic extremist” was also applied to racist and fascist forces in society. He added:
“This strikes at the heart of the relationship between policing and the public and that is clearly a political question.”
Ms Sturgeon said she would ask the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to address the issue.