Police Scotland: Use of Stop and Search

Police Scotland uses Stop and Search as an operational policing tactic in the prevention, investigation and detection of crime, with the intention of keeping people safe and improving community wellbeing.

Police Scotland recognises that stopping and searching members of the public is a significant intrusion into their personal liberty and privacy and is committed to ensuring that when it is necessary to stop and search a person it is carried out in a manner that is lawful, proportionate and accountable. 

Whilst carrying out the stop and search of a person, officers will act in accordance with the Code of Practice on the use of Stop and Search and Police Scotland’s core values of fairness, integrity and respect.  Police Scotland will ensure that an individual’s rights are upheld in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equalities Act 2010.

Police powers of stop and search

Police powers of stop and search are used when a police officer reasonably suspects you to be in possession of an illegal or harmful item.

In Scotland, the Code of Practice on the use of stop and search governs all situations when officers stop and search a person. Officers must have a specific reason to conduct a search and must carry out that search using a specific statutory power. An officer cannot search you without a specific reason even with your consent.

An officer can search:

  • You and your clothes
  • anything you are carrying, such as a bag or wallet
  • the vehicle you are travelling in (where applicable).

For a list of Statutory Powers of Search, associated legislation and Statutory Powers to require the surrender of items click here.

Your rights

Officers will act with integrity at all times and treat you with fairness and respect.

You will not be stopped and searched because of your age, sex, ethnic background or religion.

Officers should explain why they have stopped you and before any search, explain what they are looking for. Being stopped by the police does not mean that you are under arrest but you will need to stay with the officer until they have completed the search.  

After the search officers should provide you a receipt for the search, which contains information about your rights and how you can access a copy of your stop and search record.

You will not get a criminal record unless you are convicted of an offence.  Any personal information collected will be kept for police purposes and then destroyed after three years.  

You can obtain a leaflet with information on stop and search using the link 'Leaflet about Stop and Search'.

More information

Stop and Search Easy Read

Stop and Search leaflet

Stop and Search SOP

Stop and Search Policy

Code of Practice on the use of Stop and Search

HMICS Audit and Assurance Review of Stop and Search: Phase 2

A Guide to Stop and Search in Scotland

Stop and Search in Scotland: What You need to Know - A Guide for Children and Young People

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