THE “absence of clarity” in Police Scotland’s explanation for charging two individuals who protested during the Queen’s funeral cortege in Edinburgh could undermine public confidence in the police, an SNP MP has said.

Tommy Sheppard MP had written to Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Iain Livingstone to demand an explanation for the arrests.

However, Sheppard said that the response he received from Assistant Chief Constable Kenny MacDonald failed to answer the “central question” as to what criminal offence the protesters committed.

The National:

MacDonald’s response to the MP, seen by The National, said that the police “sought to balance the safety and security of HM the Queen, HM the King and other protected persons, the safety and wellbeing of the public who gathered to observe events, particularly in Edinburgh, and the legitimate right for people to protest.”

However, he refused to answer Sheppard’s question as to why the protesters were charged.

He said: “The specific cases you refer to are subject to legal proceedings. As such, I cannot comment further on specific matters.”

Sheppard has since responded to MacDonald’s letter and once again requested an explanation as to why the protesters were arrested and charged.

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“Thank you for confirming Police Scotland’s commitment to protecting freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest,” he said. “I would hope for nothing less. But by not answering my central question there is a danger that public confidence in this commitment may be undermined.

“What are they alleged to have done that constitutes a criminal offence? Usually in criminal cases it is clear that some material breach of the law has happened - someone has been harmed or something has been damaged – and the court process is to determine whether the charged individual is responsible for this.

“What has happened in this case which leads Police Scotland to conclude that the law has been broken?

"In the absence of clarity on this there is a risk to the reputation of the criminal justice system, which must never be seen to be being used to limit or constrain dissent and protest or to punish those who simply express a different view from the majority.

“I hope that you would agree with me that that would not be acceptable.”

One woman was arrested after carrying a sign that read: “F*** imperialism. Abolish the monarchy.”

However, a police source said that she was arrested in relation to her behaviour and not for the content of the sign.

A young man was also arrested for allegedly shouting abuse at Prince Andrew as he made his way up the Royal Mile as part of the funeral cortege.