Reforming Scottish policing

Photograph by Ian Georgeson, 'Police on patrol as part of the operation CAV (Campaign against Violence) officers from Police Scotland on the beat walking down Nicholson street/St Clerk street, Bridges, Pic: Super Int Matt Richards (Left) and Sgt Stevie Sutherland,

Photograph by Ian Georgeson, 'Police on patrol as part of the operation CAV (Campaign against Violence) officers from Police Scotland on the beat walking down Nicholson street/St Clerk street, Bridges, Pic: Super Int Matt Richards (Left) and Sgt Stevie Sutherland,

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Disputes and power struggles have hampered the creation of a single police force in Scotland but in the Borders the change has gone relatively smoothly.

Audit Scotland have expressed doubts that the new set-up, created by merging eight forces, can achieve the expected £1.1bn savings and is concerned about the on-going disputes between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Police Authority.

Their report states: “The SPA and Police Scotland face continuing challenges in delivering the savings required. Their limited flexibility in managing police officer and staff numbers and delays in decision-making contribute to this.

“Government policies to maintain police officer numbers at 17,234 and no compulsory redundancies for police staff limit the flexibility to deliver savings.

“The slow progress in developing a workforce strategy and agreeing voluntary redundancies or early retirements increase the risk that savings will not be delivered in time.”

As far as local residents are concerned, however, their immediate concern has been whether there have been changes to the way the Borders towns and villages are policed and according to the Borders Police, Fire and Community Safety Committee chairman, Councillor Donald Moffat, there are no major concerns.

“ I do know that people in the Borders are confident it’s going ok,” said Councillor Moffat.

“One or two community councils (eg Gordon and Westruther) say they have noticed that there has been a good police presence in the villages, and most people seem to be happy with how it’s going in the Borders.”

Councillor Moffat believes that the new system of joint working, with the fire, police and council all represented on the Safety Committee, gives councillors a far clearer picture of how the services are impacting in the area and there’s greater confidence that when issues arise they will be dealt with publicly.

“Crime figures for the Borders are good,” added Councillor Moffat. “We are in a good situation as far as things are concerned in the Borders.

Councillor Moffat points out that as one police force, senior officers in the Borders have as much right to call on the Police Scotland helicopter and additional officers, as and when required, as those from anywhere else in Scotland. Additional officers are available to help at particular events and during the summer officers from Scotland’s public order unit travelled down to help with Coldstream’s Civic Week celebrations which were larger than normal this year because of the 500th Flodden anniversary.

“When a couple of Borders officers were seconded into the serious crime squad we thought we had lost them, but the reality is that we can call in the specialist units whenever we need them.”

Councillor Moffat sat on the Police Board prior to reorganisation and he believes that the changes have led to more open public scrutiny than previously.

“I would say it’s a lot more open and accountable. Our committee is being held up as among the best in Scotland, having the best set up to scrutinise the work of the police.”