SECRET GERM WAR EXERCISE; WAR ON TERRORISM: Scotland Goes on Anthrax Alert as Fears of Chemical Attacks Grow
Byline: LINDSAY McGARVIE EXCLUSIVE
SCOTS police chiefs have drawn up a secret plan to combat any chemical warfare attack on our major cities.
The confidential blueprint was drafted after Scotland's biggest police force carried out a chilling simulated bio-terrorist assault on a Glasgow housing estate.
As a result of the operation - code-named Saltire Sky - the Scottish Executive is to inject cash into police budgets to buy chemical warfare suits.
The exercise - believed to be one of the biggest ever - is evidence that Britain has long taken the threat of chemical or biological attack seriously.
The top-secret Saltire Sky operation - a simulated anthrax attack - was carried out by Strathclyde police.
Hundreds of members of the emergency services took part to hone skills that would be needed if the city was subjected to germ warfare.
The operation was given such high priority that elite SAS soldiers were deployed alongside police officers, fire fighters and the ambulance service.
Scientists from the chemical and biological research station at Porton Down in Wiltshire worked closely on the exercise, which took place at the high-rise Kingsway flats in the Scots-toun area of the city - now home to a large number of asylum seekers.
In the wake of the fatal anthrax outbreak in Florida, Downing Street declined last week to rule out the possibility that bin Laden's Al Qaeda group has access to biological weapons.
Home Secretary David Blunkett has said discussions between Britain and the US are under way on the question of vaccination against anthrax.
Now the Scottish Executive is to release additional cash to Scottish police forces to buy rubber, Army-issue nuclear, biological and chemical protective clothing - known in Army slang as "Noddy suits".
A senior Strathclyde Police officer said the Saltire Sky exercise, carried out two years ago, had prepared the force "perfectly" for the type of attack which is feared to have caused the Florida outbreak. The officer, who remains anonymous for security reasons, said it was important for the public to be aware that the force is trained to deal with chemical attacks.
He added that the Scottish Executive has made it a "top priority" to equip police with Noddy suits to deal with such attacks safely.
He said: "Operation Saltire Sky took place to prepare us for a terrorist attack of the kind that may have taken place in the USA. Anthrax was the type of biological weapon we concentrated on. …