Police Scotland spied on fracking protesters as “domestic extremists”

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Credit: Creative Commons

John Weingarten
Reporter

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to question Chief Constable Iain Livingstone on the matter

Government documents, seen by The Ferret, reveal that environmentalist anti-fracking groups are categorised as “domestic extremists” by Police Scotland, a classification normally reserved for white supremacists and potential terrorists. Furthermore, Police Scotland have been attempting to penetrate Grangemouth communities nearby to Ineos’s industrial plants in order to obtain intelligence on citizens connected to peaceful anti-fracking groups. At First Minister’s Questions on 20 September, Nicola Sturgeon promised to speak to the head of Police Scotland, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, about the matter.

In 2016 the Home Office advised that people and organisations protesting against fracking should not be labeled “domestic extremists”. The Scottish Government voted to ban fracking the same year. However Spinwatch, a government and lobbying watchdog, estimated that at least seven of the eleven regional counter terrorism units in the UK have monitored, surveilled, or smeared anti-fracking campaigners in the past five years.

In Police Scotland’s Annual Police Plan for 2017-2018, a document that outlines Scottish policing strategy this year, the document names anti-fracking groups, neo-Nazi groups, Scottish Dawn, and National Action as Domestic Extremism (DE) threats.

The Police Plan states: “Extreme Left Wing activity in Scotland has been observed over animal rights, particularly in relation to hunt saboteurs. There continue to be protests around shale oil and gas extraction and unconventional oil and gas extraction, both commonly referred to as ‘fracking’.

‘‘In 2017-18, we will continue to closely monitor individuals and groups that are involved/suspected to be involved in the DE arena and explore all opportunities to disrupt and detect their activities.”

Patrick Harvie MSP for the Scottish Green Party voiced his concern during First Minister’s Questions on September 20: “If individuals, campaign groups and communities cannot peacefully campaign on issues that matter in our society without being treated as ‘domestic extremists’, the same category used to describe racist and fascist forces, this strikes at the heart of the relationship between policing and the public – that isn’t a mere operational detail, it’s clearly a political question.

“The First Minister must guarantee that campaigners at Faslane on Saturday will not be designated as domestic extremists merely for attending a peaceful rally.”

Nicola Sturgeon replied: “Firstly, I absolutely support the right of peaceful democratic protest. I’ve taking part in many, many peaceful democratic protests including at Faslane against nuclear weapons, so I will defend the rights of people [to protest], whether they are protesting against fracking, or nuclear weapons or any other issues, as long as they are peaceful and democratic.

“I am very happy to ask the Chief Constable to address the point, on behalf of Police Scotland, that Patrick Harvie has raised.”

In response, Police Scotland’s Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry McLean stated: “Police Scotland’s position would never be to describe peaceful protesters as domestic extremists.”