Monday, August 29, 2011

Cosla Chief Pat Watters criticises choice of police summit speakers at International Policing Summit, bias towards national force, live in the future

Dear All

I blogged on how internally in Scotland there are law enforcement agencies and others which operate on a national basis.

But the idea of a Scottish National Police Force still upsets many, why, well I consider them trying to protect vested interests.

The status quo is untenable, Scotland is a small country in much the same way as Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Norway.

Apparently they have the brains and ability to operate a national service but in the eyes of the few, Scotland is just incapable.

They feel that everything has to be kept local.

That argument doesn’t stand up because the biggest force in Scotland is Strathclyde Police, their area is massive.

Anyone saying that this force should be broken up to be more localised?

No, not anyone, not even the anti national force brigade have ever floated that idea across the table.

The latest gripe to come out is the Scottish Government being accused of bias over its choice of speakers for the International Policing Summit.

The event will have a number of delegates from the countries listed above who will talk about their experiences of police reform.

Instead of being at the forefront of Police Reform we are playing catch up with other countries, money, the cuts of budgets focused minds, but more should be made of the operational benefits.

As well as delegates, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will also speak and he will put the case for the new force.

Labour dominated Cosla, the umbrella body representing local authorities apparently don’t like the line up of speakers citing their belief that they have been selected to fit the option of introducing a single police force in Scotland.

In contrast, last week saw Cosla’s own event on policing, it was very much the anti national force lovefest with senior police officers and local government officials discussed the Government’s reform proposals.

And not liken it.

The Scottish Government will go forward with the new single force despite high-profile complaints from serving officers and local authorities because it is in the best interests of the public.

We need to protect front line police officer numbers to ensure the safety of our communities; we can’t do that without reform, real reform not smoke and mirrors window dressing.

This isn’t about changing a logo or cap badge.

The new national force when Scotland becomes independent should also go forward and take over the duties of the UK Border Agency in Scotland.

However, the issuing of visas etc should be part of whatever becomes the equivalent of the UK Home Office.

Cosla president Pat Watters said:

“At their event, in the Government’s own words, ‘we will hear from a variety of countries with national police services so we can understand how this might work in Scotland’. Two things occur to me in relation to this. Firstly, shouldn’t we know it would work in Scotland before we make the decision? Secondly, why is the Government unwilling to listen to any examples from abroad of strong regional policing? The Government’s unwillingness to listen is both dispiriting and disappointing. It seems that the Government does believe that it has a monopoly on wisdom after all.”

Pat Watters simply doesn’t get it; a decision has been made, it is for the Government to now take this forward.

The idea of a single force was outlined in a Government proposal on the future of the police on January 12th.

I put forward this idea on the 4th of September 2010 at the SNP National Asembly, two months later the Labour Party in Scotland in the form of MSP Iain Gray came out in favour.

The Tories are also onboard, only the Lib Dems nationally are out of step.

A Scottish Government spokesman said:

“This government has consulted widely and engaged regularly with police, local authorities and all other interested parties on the best way forward for reform, and will continue to do so. Hearing from experts in other countries is an important part of this process and exactly the sort of considered, open debate we should be having. Strong, local democratic accountability will be at the heart of new police services in Scotland.”

The main objectors seem to be Labour Councillors who sit on the local police boards as convenors; they are worried that reform will probably see their extra income vanish.

For example, Labour Councillor Stephen Curran gets an extra £20k on top of his councillor salary as convenor of Strathclyde Police.

So, you can see why some people in his situation are keen for the status quo to continue.

But the future is already written, we need a national force, I have always believed that and always will.

We are changing more than a logo and cap badge here.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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