political opinion is divided about whether a single Scotland wide police force will increase or decrease local officers’ ability to respond to the individual needs of local areas.
In supporting his party’s plan to reform the police service into a single force Paul Wheelhouse SNP MSP for the South of Scotland said it would give local government a greater role in determining the priorities of police in their area
At present 146 councillors across all 32 authorities have a role in management of the police. Under new proposals every councillor in every council could play a part in ensuring the local police respond to the needs of local communities.
Mr Wheelhouse said; “Through my own consultation with local communities, as well as officers at G-Division at Hawick and with senior officers at the Lothian and Borders HQ in Edinburgh it has been very clear to me that it is not the number of different cap badges that is of greatest importance, but rather that local communities want to see any reform maintain the number of police on the beat.
“Another key concern among residents is that they want to know who they will be able to talk to about their concerns; both local officers and local communities want the model of accountability to work in such a way as to allow local policing to reflect the different local priorities for action in the Borders and I am delighted that the reforms will allow local accountability to be strengthened.
“In the Scottish Borders for example, there are only two councillors out of 34 on a Joint Police Board of 18. The proposed reform will mean more councillors in every council area will have the opportunity to hold the local Divisional Commander responsible for the actions of the police in the G-Division area. These meetings will be more meaningful as they will focus on the needs of the Borders and the intention is that they would be held in the Borders, rather than require attendance at meetings at the Fettes HQ.”
The reforms also have the support of the Scottish Police Force Authority and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
Agency director general, Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum said: “Operating as a single national service will allow us to share information, knowledge and resources in a more effective way and help us to fight against organised criminals who threaten our communities and our economy.”
The Liberal Democrat Party campaigned strongly against the move towards a single nation-wide police force during May’s Scottish Government elections, and nothing he has heard since has persuaded South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume to change his mind.
“The Justice Secretary’s statement was silent on the vast number of people who expressed real concerns about this move.
“The statement was silent on the cost of this change to policing.
“It is disingenuous on the views of senior officers and it contradicts the Christie Commission report.
“This ill thought out approach is opposed by 78% of rank and file police officers, it is a move that seven out of eight Chief Constables have grave concerns about and is a step which COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) has condemned.
“There is evidence to show that a single police force will result in an erosion of local accountability community decision making.
“I fear that services on the ground will suffer at the hands of the SNP’s reckless handling of these essential frontline services.”
The view of COSLA president Pat Watters is that the SNP Government is determined to take the country down the centralisation route and asks “are we now looking at a Scotland micro-managed from the top?”
Mr Waters said: “It is vital that we are shown that the claims around savings and retention of bobbies on the beat stack up because my gut reaction is that they do not.”