INCREASED patrols by the Ministry of Defence Police on the Rosneath peninsula have been criticised by anti-nuclear campaigners this week – although they've received a rather more mixed response from local community representatives.
The Advertiser's sister newspaper, the Sunday Herald, reported that officers from the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) are to begin patrolling outwith the nuclear bases at Faslane and Coulport.
Alannah Maurer, who lives in the area and is a spokesperson for the Navy Not Nuclear campaign group, asked whether the move represented the “increasing militarisation” of the peninsula, or if it was being driven by budget constraints.
Ms Maurer complained about the lack of public consultation and absence of notification from Police Scotland about the plans.
Lomond North councillor George Freeman told the Advertiser said any proposal for MDP officers to carry out Police Scotland's duties in the area would be “unacceptable” - but the chairman of one community council on the peninsula called the MDP's presence "helpful and reassuring".
Councillor Freeman said: “Although we continue to be told that 1,000 additional police officers have been employed over the past few years, Police Scotland have confirmed there are actually fewer police officers on our streets due to the large number required to carry out the desk duties due to the reduction in civilian staff within Police Scotland.
“MoD Police officers do not have the experience required by Police Scotland officers who have to deal with a much wider range of issues than their MoD counterparts.
“It is clear to me that Police Scotland services and the number of officers in my Lomond North Ward have decreased significantly over the past ten years and any plans for MoD Police to take on these duties would be unacceptable.
“I have now requested an urgent meeting with senior Police Scotland officers to discuss these reports.”
West of Scotland Conservative MSP and Lomond North councillor Maurice Corry said the move was "common sense".
Mr Corry said: “Since the creation of Police Scotland we have seen the decrease in police numbers which is placing additional strain on our force.
"The MoD Police have extensive resources and man power on our door step. It is common sense that the MoD would step up and support our local community police force. This is not the MoD Police taking over, it is the sharing of resources, skills and personnel to assist Police Scotland in easing the burden placed upon them.”
Local MDP officers were also reported to have asked members of the public to report anyone seen taking photographs of nuclear submarines, and to have advised that random spot checks of vehicles would be carried out in the area.
Ken Smith, convener of Rosneath and Clynder Community Council, said there should be no objections to MDP increasing their activities in the area from the perspective of security at Faslane and Coulport.
Mr Smith said: “MDP officers are also responsible for application of the Road Traffic Act on the Whistlefield to Coulport road and always take an interest in anyone stopping on that road.
“I believe that stopping cars at random on that road would also be within their competence, just as random checks on normal public roads are within Police Scotland's remit.
“Police presence is always welcome as a deterrent as long as it does not stray into actual interference with civilians outside MoD lands.
“I would not object to MoD policemen passing on information concerning criminal activity that they observe in the course of their duties, to Police Scotland.
“I do not think it is illegal to take photographs of submarines at sea. I don't know what the situation is regarding photographs of the base, but I suspect it may depend on where you are taking the photographs from.
“If it is not illegal then surely it is wrong for anyone to ask the public to report anyone taking such a photograph.
“If the security of the submarines is currently in question, the introduction of a ban on photography of submarines would not have any impact with satellites overhead, nor would it aid recognition, since the Royal Navy publishes photos on its own websites.”
Nick Davies, the chairman of Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council, said: “Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council was briefed at our November meeting regarding the MDP initiative to carry out occasional ‘spot checks’ on the northern access road, and no concerns have been expressed to us.
“We are very accustomed both to MDP and Police Scotland patrols on the Rosneath peninsula, and I think their presence is both helpful and reassuring.”
An MDP spokesman said: “This is not about replacing Police Scotland, but about working together to ensure the safety and security of the Rosneath peninsula area as a whole.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said there had been no discussions about the MDP expanding its role in the area and that it would therefore not be appropriate to comment further.