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Scottish police prepare for Pope Francis visit – plans to repel ‘hardline anarchists’


The Holy See has not currently confirmed whether the Pope, 84, will attend the COP26 climate conference this November but organisers are taking no chances with the Pope’s safety and are actively planning adequate security measures for his involvement in the conference. Police Scotland said countermeasures are already in place to prevent and repel “hardline anarchists” intent on committing “serious acts of violence and disorder.”

Bernard Higgins, Assistant Chief Constable for Police Scotland, said: “We have a set of planning assumptions which we have been working to, based on a number of world leaders coming at a particular time, who may include the president of the US, and who may include the Holy Father, Pope Francis, which would escalate the event into something not seen in the UK in many, many years.”

The UN climate conference will gather world leaders together in Scotland’s largest city to discuss strategies and plans to tackle climate change globally with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden both set to attend.

The Papacy is expected to send a delegation to the conference but has not yet decided on the level of representation.

The Pope’s expected visit to Glasgow this November will mark Pope Francis’ first visit to Scotland and the first Papal visit to the city since Pope Benedict XVI made the trip over a decade ago in 2010.

“Based on current intelligence, some sort of demonstration is inevitable,” said Mr Higgins.

“I have categorised into four categories – concerned individuals making peaceful protests, people protesting certain countries, climate activists who won’t be afraid to engage in direct action to disrupt, and hardline anarchists – either extreme right wing or extreme left wing – who potentially will come regardless of the substance of the conference, intent on delivering serious acts of violence and disorder.”

If the Pope makes the trip to Glasgow, an increased level of security might be warranted due to the likelihood of vast crowds.

In 1982, an estimated 300,000 worshippers gathered at Bellahouston Park to hear an address given by Pope John Paul II.

READ MORE: Pope Francis ponders UK visit at end of 2021

Mr Higgins continued: “If you consider some of the peaceful protests we’ve seen recently, and then contrast that with, for example, the protests in Capitol Hill, that’s how flexible the policing plan has got to be.

“It’s got to be flexible enough to facilitate lawful, peaceful protest, but be robust enough to repel any determined violent or riotous behaviour.”

Pope Francis has previously been deeply engaged in issues of climate change and has expressed hope that this UN conference will create meaningful change.

In an address to Vatican diplomats in February, the Pope said it was his “hope that the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), will lead to effective agreement in addressing the consequences of climate change.

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“Now is the time to act, for we are already feeling the effects of prolonged inaction.”


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