In September 2010, I went to the SNP National Assembly, at this event; I proposed two things, that Scotland should have a National Police force, now called Police Scotland, and the National Fire service.
During the discussion and on this blog, I laid out how the Police Service would have a triple lock of accountability.
Local boards, a National board and oversight by a new creation at Holyrood; the Justice 3 Committee, Justice 3 wouldn’t have any members of the other justice committees as members.
This was to expand the knowledge base at Holyrood among the deeply ignorant SNP MSPs who quite frankly need all the help they can get.
The SNP in the shape of Marco Biagi scribbled down my suggestions; this was before he was an MSP.
Anyway, the idea I put forward in detail wasn’t how Police Scotland ended up.
Now, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser wants a change to make Chief Constable Sir Stephen House more accountable to the public. Under his idea, Police Scotland would have a two-tier system operating.
Serious crimes dealt with by a national police force and community crimes handled by 32 local forces sharing boundaries with Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
Well, it’s an idea but I can’t say I share his enthusiasm; Police Scotland has had a lot of criticism mainly due to the way that it has been run, and some of those criticisms are justified.
Stephen House wasn’t my first choice for Chief Constable, he probably got the job based on the fact he ran what was then called Strathclyde Police. It seems people are not happy about several aspects of how the service is run; the ‘Strathclydeisation’ across Scotland didn’t go down well. Other clangers include high levels of stop and search, armed police stopping motorists and the mounted riot police patrol in sleepy backwaters like Inverness.
Do Police horses need days out in Inverness?
I would say no, what they were doing in Inverness is anyone’s guess, but wasting their time must figure high on the list!
One thing is certain there are not enough checks and balances in place to hold the force to account.
Speaking at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) annual conference, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said the current system under Police Scotland was “failing”.
“Instead of enhanced accountability and scrutiny, what we have seen is a sorry saga of centralising authority, of a loss of community policing, of closures of public counters. Add to that the fiasco over stop-and-search, the row over routinely armed police officers, and the seemingly utter inability of the police authority to hold the chief constable to account, and it is clear that all is not well when it comes to the accountability of what should be a publicly responsive police service.”
The problem is management issues, coupled with lack of vision. As to the closures of public counters, whether there was a national force this would probably not have prevented this aspect of resource management.
Murdo Fraser said the Conservative-proposed policing review would look at improving local accountability. Police Scotland was rushed through under the SNP and the deadbeat Justice Sec Kenny MacAskill who didn’t display judgment or leadership.
It should have been ‘hands on’ to effect the change, but the tendency in the SNP is to let others do the work and take the credit for it. MacAskill was never a supporter of the national force idea which explains a lot.
Murdo Fraser added:
“We think this proposed system could work very well, like it has in other European countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Already local councils employ community wardens to deal with local crime, and there’s no reason in principle why the administration of community police forces cannot also fall under the same local authority umbrella.”
The idea of Police Scotland was to remove boundaries and have an integrated police force to share resources and experience while at the same time protect front line policing from cuts to personnel by savings.
A huge failure of the Police Scotland idea under the SNP was the ability of the Scottish Police Authority to hold the force to account.
Some people just take the money and run, or keep quiet, go along to get along. The Chief Constable Stephen House was called in front of Holyrood’s justice sub-committee following concern about the high number of under 12s stopped and searched by the police.
People and that includes the under 12s should only be stopped and search if, and only if there is a reasonable cause to do so.
It shouldn’t be done on spec or to make up a target which I feel is counter productive to good community relations, even with the under 12s. Although targets are a good thing in some respects, they aren’t, if it eats up Police Officers time taking them away from the solving of crime. There is also an issue regarding so-called consensual stop and searches on juveniles despite Police Scotland saying it had ceased to carry them out some six months before.
People expect if a Police organisation says it has ceased an activity that we can trust fully that their word is their bond.
And if it has to be done as I say, that there is good cause driven by evidential circumstances.
As to armed officers responding to incidents; I don’t have a problem with this aspect, provided that the incident of a routine stop such as for driving doesn’t end up as a Police Convention.
If two unarmed traffic cops can issue a speeding ticket, I don’t think anyone can justify four armed police hanging about looking tacky or giving each other moral support.
This practice should be revised.
Again, it seems that Police Scotland made a pledge then promptly broke it regarding sending armed officers to incidents where there wasn’t a threat to life.
Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said he did not think Mr Fraser’s approach was necessary.
“We must be approaching a general election, because politicians are trying to make names for themselves. Local accountability within the police service has not worked as well as it could, but that does not mean the problems cannot be rectified.”
Jumping in to defend the indefensible, Scotland’s unpopular First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“There are more local councillors involved in the governance of Police Scotland now under the single service than was the case under the old eight separate forces. Police Scotland was put together as an amalgamated force for very well-known reasons, to make sure that as we were maximising the resources going to front-line policing and minimising the resources that were taken up by having eight chief constables and all of the associated bureaucracy that goes with that. It’s partly because we’ve amalgamated the eight police forces into Police Scotland that we’re able to maintain 1,000 extra police on the streets.”
It was a deal with the Scottish Conservatives that put 1,000 extra police on the streets in the first place, and if there is more accountability presumably based on number of councillors, then why are there still problems?
Are they simply ignored?
Are they not speaking up?
Are they unfit for purpose?
Does having people close to the SNP like Jeanne Freeman enhance that greater scrutiny and more accountability?
Apparently ex Labourite Jeanne Freeman is a ‘quango queen’ who is said to rake in about £50k a year and no one publicly elected her.
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said:
“The creation of a single policing service has resulted in greater scrutiny and more accountability than ever before – at a local level with more than twice as many local councillors now involved in the scrutiny of policing than under previous arrangements.
The way policing is now delivered puts local communities’ concerns at the heart of our policing priorities. National specialist units support our local policing teams to ensure equal access to specialist resources whenever and wherever the need.”
Maybe she can explain the mounted riot police in Inverness?
A Scottish Government spokesman said:
“The introduction of Police Scotland has strengthened accountability and local policing. Reform of Police Scotland has allowed us to protect frontline policing with over 1,000 additional officers out protecting the public and keeping communities safe. This is in stark contrast to the situation in England and Wales where officer numbers have continued to fall for the last 12 years.”
Oh look, a typical Nationalist dig at the English, we aren’t interested what the English are doing regarding policing, the issue is Police Scotland. Yet again, unpopular Nicola Sturgeon shows her complete lack of class and clearly shows she is unable to deal with the real issues.
Having made the mess, the SNP is utterly incapable of solving their own self made problems of tinkering, unpopular Nicola Sturgeon is right about one thing, the service cannot be allowed to go backwards, trouble is that Sturgeon cannot take the Police service forward!
Finally, one of Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow homosexual SNP activists took a well known filthy Glasgow street beggar up a dark alley in Glasgow, prior to entering the alley which has one way in and one way out, he checked his wallet.
If he had taken a Shetland pony up the alley as well, could Nicola Sturgeon tell us all what crimes could have been committed, beyond cruelty to animals?
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University