Arrests during Operation Unicorn were not for protesting, police say

Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone reflected on the policing response at events commemorating the death of the Queen in Scotland.

29 September 2022

Arrests made during events to commemorate the death of the Queen in Scotland were not to do with protests, Police Scotland has said.

Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone reflected on the policing response during Operation Unicorn at a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) meeting on Thursday.

Sir Iain praised the efforts of the service in ensuring events relating to the Queen’s death were held “safely, securely and with dignity”.

He said: “As is so often the case in times of sadness or national challenge, duty requires policing to step forward with compassion and professionalism – individuals within the police service setting aside personal plans at extremely short notice to give public service.

“Police Scotland had an important role to play to ensure that significant events relating to Her Majesty’s death could be held safely, securely and with dignity.

Queen's coffin
Police lined the route of the Queen’s coffin throughout Scotland (Jane Barlow/PA)

“As chief constable, I had a clear and express expectation that officers and staff would respond to this important and solemn occasion with professionalism and high standards, and they did.

“Everyone in Police Scotland played their part. Those who planned the response over many years, those directly supporting Operation Unicorn and being operationally deployed, and others who provided effective policing right across the country during this intense period.”

Sir Iain confirmed 13 arrests were made across the whole of Scotland during Operation Unicorn, with offences including “low-level disorder, violence, abusive and threatening behaviour, and the illegal use of drones”.

One of these arrests has already seen a 74-year-old man plead guilty to breach of the peace near the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, receiving a £350 fine.

The chief constable said there were “no security breaches, no significant violence or disorder, no safety issues and relatively few arrests among countless interactions and engagements between officers and our fellow citizens over the course of the Operation Unicorn period”.

The force has come in for criticism since a number of people protesting against the monarchy were arrested while events took place.

Queen's coffin in Edinburgh
Thousands of people lined the streets as the Queen’s coffin travelled through Edinburgh in the days following her death (PA)

But Sir Iain told the SPA that while campaigning and protesting is a “legitimate, necessary, vital part of civic life”, abusive or threatening behaviour is not “legitimate protest”.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said there were no arrests made against people protesting the monarchy during the proceedings.

“We are acutely aware while upholding the rights of the difference between freedom of speech and where there are instances of breaches of the law through public disorder or other offences being committed,” he said.

“There haven’t been any arrests for people protesting, as is clearly the case to members.”

Sir Iain said Police Scotland would assess any concerns raised over policing during the period.

He said: “I categorically undertake, as I have done consistently since holding office as chief constable, that if we have got something wrong in a specific set of circumstances, or we could have done something better, we will acknowledge that and we will take necessary and proportionate action to put it right.”

A “full and thorough” debrief will be carried out to reflect on lessons learned during Operation Unicorn, he added.

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