VIP Security – Ian Thompson – 10 July 2018

In the week of the visit by president Donald Trump to Turnberry it was entirely appropriate that our guest speaker was recently-retired policeman Ian Thompson. Ian had spent most of his career as a specially trained VIP and royalty driver.

After originally serving in the City of Glasgow Police traffic (pursuit) section he spent 7 years in the driving school and being trained by the SAS before being seconded to the queen’s office as a security driver. In this role, detailed street knowledge was obviously essential and Ian described how emergency planning was conducted. Firstly, a motor-cycle survey of the main route would be undertaken along with two alternative emergency routes in case of trouble. On the actual day, the escort is provided by three vehicles: a pilot car responsible for route selection, timing and diversion to a ‘safe’ house should that be necessary; a close-protection officer (CPO) which also serves as a stand-in pilot; a back-up car essentially to prevent overtaking. Motor cycle outriders ensure uninterrupted progress through city streets and conduct spectator vetting procedures. The whole operation works like a well-oiled machine with precise timing of events being critical.

In his time Ian had driven a succession of prime-ministers from Harold Wilson to Tony Blair and was generally (and tactfully) complimentary about all. Amongst the royals whom he had carried were the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Princess Anne. He amused his audience with little anecdotes such as when, to the astonishment of other road users, he drove an empty popemobile from Edinburgh to Glasgow for the papal visit to Bellahouston in 2010.

One of Ian’s last assignments was to take care of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni on a visit to Scotland during this year’s UK meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of State. This was a ’category 1’ security visit during which Ian got to know the ‘nice man’ very well and was gifted a watch for his close attentions.

Loudon McAndrew thanked Ian for his illuminating and entertaining insight into a world that few of us were familiar with.