SCSN recently submitted written evidence to the Scottish Parliament Joint Sub Committee on Policing on the use of drones (RPAS) by Police Scotland.

You can read a section of our response below or download the full written evidence here.

You can also read the Police Scotland response to the Joint Sub Committee on Policing here.

‘Our letter of 26th November highlighted a concern with the RPAS deployment in general terms – “the deployment of the drones has been much broader than posited in the initial paper that went to the SPA and the interviews in the press around the same time would have suggested.”
We think it is inappropriate to use RPAS for surveillance purposes and would encourage the appropriate oversight and scrutiny body (we note previous discussions on the confusing/cluttered landscape of police scrutiny in Scotland and it is beyond the remit of SCSN to suggest who would be most appropriate) to seek assurances from Police Scotland about their future plans in relation to this matter.

We think the primary purpose of RPAS deployment should remain searching for vulnerable and missing persons, in remote and rural terrain in particular. Some of the exceptional RPAS deployments shared by Police Scotland in their correspondence, for example for fatal road traffic collision investigations, investigation at the Stonehaven derailment seem an appropriate use of RPAS. However, given the comparative ease at which RPAS deployment is enabled compared to the ease at which the helicopter can be deployed (particularly in terms of cost) we believe there is a risk of mission creep. We are of the opinion that the deployment of RPAS to a ‘youth disorder’ incident on Troon beach is a disproportionate response, for example; and would query the use of such a technology on non-critical tasking such as post-investigation and crime scene imagery.

We aren’t convinced that just because the RPAS technology CAN be used for these purposes that it SHOULD be used for them given ethical issues that arise; however it is also is also right that Police Scotland retains the right of operational independence for deployments. An open and ongoing dialogue between stakeholders is important in order that a balance between ethical considerations, operational independence and the clear benefits of the technology is essential. Creating some safeguards and robust ethical governance processes (internal and external) is important.’