Opposition to single police force

OPPOSITION to Scottish Government plans to introduce a single police force across the country is gaining pace and here in the Borders local councillors are getting a second opportunity to make their views known.

During the early stages of the consultation process SBC’s response was that “existing policing arrangements in the Borders are working well and there is a need to harness and build upon this through the maintenance of a divisional approach”. However, they stopped short of saying what their preferred model of policing should be - whether retaining the eight forces across Scotland, reducing them to three or merging all into one single police force. Councillors did express concern though, about the implications of a single police force and the possible loss of officers in the Borders.

They also wanted more evidence that a single force would produce substantial savings.

However, the body that represents local authorities across Scotland (COSLA) estimate that the savings would be less than two per cent of the police budget - and they say that those savings could be made through efficiency targets.

COSLA are opposing plans for a single police force, their main argument against it being that the savings do not justify the change, the cost of restructuring would be a minimum of £230 million and they’re concerned that too much power would rest with one chief constable and one Justice Minister. And they are asking Scottish Borders Council, along with the country’s other 31 local councils, to back them.

“The current proposal coming forward from St Andrews House towards a single Scotland wide police force seem less about delivering better community safety and better value for the people of Scotland and amounts to little more than a centralising power grab,” say COSLA president, Pat Watters and community safety spokesperson Barbara Grant.

“We are seeing a cross sector ground-swell of opinion against centralisation of police. Indeed the one thing we most certainly do not have is consensus for a single force with 90 per cent of the respondents to the Government’s own recent consultation not in favour of a single service.

“Seven of the eight police chief constables are opposed or unconvinced by the case and the Scottish Police Federation, which represents over 98 per cent of currently serving officers are not in favour of a single force.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat opposition to the proposals were high on their election manifesto at May’s Scottish Government elections and Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland, supports COSLA’s stand.

He said: “The Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill seems hell-bent on ignoring the mass of informed public opinion on the single police force. He claims to be consulting, but it is more of a PR exercise and even COSLA has accused the Scottish Government of stifling debate on this issue.

“Clear evidence shows this plan will cost money, not save money, it risks losing officers and it will give the Justice Secretary absolute control over the police, which is a dangerous step.”