Concerned by the way things appear to be going with plans for a single force in Scotland, I attended the COSLA organised “Police Summit” today in Edinburgh.
Here are some very brief notes:
- It was reassuring to find that there were plenty of people there who were well informed about the limitations of the published reports presenting the various options. Colin Mair (Chief Executive, Improvement Service) did a particularly fine job of pointing out issues with the business case document.
- I was shocked to discover that the leaders of Scotland’s main police bodies had seen nothing of the outline business case document. It put my failed attempt to see the document - as a member of the public - into perspective!
- A running theme was that nobody knew what a proposed single force would mean in terms of accountability. Would it devolve power to local police or centralise it in the Scottish Police Board? Who would elect the members of the Police Board? How would the police interface at the local council level?
- A number of people I spoke to one-to-one said that they recognised that we couldn’t stay with the eight forces model in the current economic climate. I asked why and discovered that they were just assuming that reducing the number of forces would reduce cost!
- A number of the propositions and views seemed to suggest, more or less directly, that ACPOS (the Association of Chief Police Offices of Scotland) had historically acted as a barrier to change. There was a suggestion that, for some, the single force model had the attraction of bypassing the power of ACPOS. This provides a possible explanation why some may be pursuing a single forces model even if it doesn’t provide substantive cost savings over other options.
- The consensus was that the SNP had decide to maintain its manifesto commitment to a single force and was unlikely to shift from this. However, there was also a suggestion that there might still be time to impact the government’s perspective on what a single force actually means.