Record and controversies
Closely monitoring fracking protest in 2017-18 under ex-spycops boss
In 2018 an investigation by Spinwatch into the policing of the anti-fracking movement found that 'despite the Home Office’s December 2016 advice that ‘support for anti-fracking is not an indicator of vulnerability’ under the Prevent strategy, 'at least seven of the 11 regional counter terrorism units (CTUs) and counter terrorism intelligence units (CTIUs) that make up the UK’s National Counter Terrorism Policing Network have either carried out monitoring or surveillance and/or unjustifiably smeared anti-fracking campaigners [over the past five years]. Scotland’s Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit (SCTIU), led by Police Scotland, was one of those units.
Phil Gormley, a former Met Special Branch chief of two undercover policing units, including the notorious Special Demonstration Squad that infiltrated and spied on activist and environmental protest groups.
In his foreword for Police Scotland’s Annual Police Plan for 2017/18, Gormley outlines how the Scottish policing ‘service will be delivered over the coming year’ in alignment with the ‘long-term’ strategic vision for policing in Scotland. On tackling counter terrorism and domestic extremism, Police Scotland anticipates that ‘In 2017/18 we will continue to pursue terrorists and those who sponsor them and explore all opportunities to disrupt and detect such activities…’
While the ‘terrorists’ referred to here are ISIL and Northern Ireland-related, the plan also labels anti-fracking protestors and hunt saboteurs as a ‘Domestic Extremism’ (DE) threat whose activities similarly require detection and disruption:
- ‘There continues to be protest around shale oil and gas extraction and unconventional oil and gas extraction, both commonly referred to as ‘fracking’.
'‘Local Police Plan 2017-20’ for the Falkirk region similarly brands anti-fracking protest as a potential threat in its discussion of ‘counter terrorism’ risks in Falkirk - home to INEOS’ Grangemouth chemicals plant, which forms part of an enormous refinery complex classified as critical national infrastructure.
- ‘…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’.
The plan also makes clear its intent to gather intelligence from local communities, despite strong public opposition to fracking in Scotland.
Police Scotland drops fracking protest ‘terrorist’ tag
Following strong criticism at Holyrood from Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's statement that peaceful anti-fracking campaigners should not be considered extremists, Police Scotland dropped the reference to fracking under the heading 'domestic extremists' from its the 2018/19 annual plan. Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry Mclean wrote to the Scottish Parliament’s justice sub-committee on policing:
- “The Police Scotland annual police plan for 2017/18 did contain the following commentary: ‘There continues to be protests around shale oil and gas extraction and unconventional oil and gas extraction, and unconventional oil and gas extraction, both commonly referred to as ‘fracking’. This paragraph was contained within a wider and diverse section of the annual police plan under the heading of Domestic Extremism.
- “Police Scotland does not consider any form of lawful and peaceful protest to constitute domestic extremism; however, we accept that from a presentational perspective a misinterpretation of this position may have been given from the way this small section of the annual police plan was worded and presented. No such reference is contained in the current Annual Police Plan for 2018/19.” 
Articles and resources
- Melissa Jones, Russell Scott, Why are counter terrorism police still spying on the anti-fracking movement?, Spinwatch, 9 September 2018.
- Billy Briggs, Police Scotland brand fracking opponents 'domestic extremists, The National, via The Ferret, 16 September 2018
- Netpol, Campaigners, not extremists, 2019
- About Us, Police Scotland, accessed 12 July 2013.
- Melissa Jones, Russell Scott, Why are counter terrorism police still spying on the anti-fracking movement?, Spinwatch, 9 September 2018
- Billy Briggs, Police Scotland amends counter terrorism plan after fracking fracas, The Ferret, 25 September 2018
- The National, Police Scotland drops fracking protest ‘terrorist’ tag, 25 September 2018, accessed same day