MICHAEL Matheson has resisted calls for a Scottish inquiry into undercover policing.

The Justice Secretary said he was not convinced a probe into the use of covert police officers, or spy cops, by Scottish forces would be in the public interest.

There had been pressure on the SNP minister to launch an investigation following the set up of the Undercover Policing Inquiry in England and Wales.

That was established after a series of revelations about undercover officers sent to infiltrate political groups, including police spies coercing women into forming intimate relationships, and stealing the identities of dead children.

However, a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said undercover policing had been “used effectively” in the 423 operations they’d been deployed in north of the border since 2000.

The Inspector added that there had been no evidence of the sort of behaviour that prompted the English and Welsh inquiry

The officers had been used in cases dealing with “drug-related offences, child sexual abuse and exploitation, human trafficking and exploitation and serious organised crime.”

HMICS did say that officers from Metropolitan Police’s controversial Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit had been deployed in Scotland between 2000 and 2016.

The Justice Secretary told MSPs: “We have seen no evidence of the sort of behaviour by Scottish police officers that led to the establishment of the Undercover Policing Inquiry.”

“I’ve considered carefully whether I should establish a separate Scottish inquiry under the Inquiries Act.

“In all the circumstances I am not satisfied that establishing a separate inquiry is necessary or in the public interest.”

Labour’s Neil Findlay, who has long campaigned for an inquiry, was not happy.

He said: “By refusing a public inquiry or to look beyond the year 2000 the cabinet secretary fails victims, many of them women, and fails our democracy.

“Now the only people on the mainland UK who will not have access to justice are Scottish victims.”

Green MSP John Finnie, himself a former police officer told Matheson: “You need to take charge of this situation, you need to call an inquiry, you need to assert your independence in relation to this. This is a Scottish matter – please deal with it.”