Have the police lost their minds? That’s the question being asked, even by voices traditionally supportive of the forces of law and order, in the wake of anti-monarchy protesters being challenged and in some cases removed from prominent locations.

In Edinburgh a protestor on the Royal Mile was dragged away by police officers after he heckled Prince Andrew, who was walking behind his mother’s coffin as it made its way up to St Giles’ kirk (which is not a cathedral, as the BBC’s Jim Naughtie kept saying mistakenly during his commentary.)

There was some confusion about the protestor incident on social media, not least in England where it is sometimes forgotten that Scotland has its own distinct and ancient legal system.

It wasn’t a free speech question. In traditional Scottish terms it was a simple breach of the peace question, and the officers will say they were operating entirely within the law and according to precedent.

In Scots law, a breach of the peace is defined as conduct “severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community.” It is “conduct which does present as genuinely alarming and disturbing, in its context, to any reasonable people.”

A funeral, or a public ceremony paying respects, is a delicate, sensitive occasion. The response of several members of the crowd who shoved the protestor as he was taken off down a close, alleyway, off the Royal Mile, suggests the outburst had caused alarm.

At Westminster, there have been several incidents. On Twitter, one protestor who claimed to be waving a blank piece of paper says he was asked for his details by officers.

Another protestor was moved along and the Met issued a statement pointing out that she was not arrested and had, the Met claimed, been blocking vehicular access.

Politicians of all parties have expressed concerns about such heavy handed policing. The principles of free speech are at stake. But the police operate within the laws and regulations approved by a parliament that proved itself pretty careless on civil liberties during the imposition of the most draconian and absurd restrictions in our history, during lockdown.

It’s not easy. Officers will be tense. Westminster is already full of barriers and the mounting security operation ahead of Monday. The Queen will lay in state in Westminster Hall. The funeral is taking place directly over the road at Westminster Abbey.

The Met, with a new commissioner and numerous problems on its hands, is understandably jumpy. Until Monday’s funeral is concluded, London will be the centre of global attention. World leaders are flying in. It is a security challenge like no other. Hundreds of thousands of the Queen’s subjects and assorted tourists are expected to arrive, attempting to pay their respects. Among them will be protesters. And alongside them some monarchists who won’t take kindly to people turning up to be so disrespectful. The Met has to get the balance right.

It is going to be a long week.

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