This article was the Scotsman Editorial.
The call today by the think-tank Reform Scotland for the creation of 32 police forces to replace the current eight is a radical idea that runs counter to the prevailing view in the Scottish Government, echoed by many senior officers, that we need fewer constabularies rather than more.
However, the purpose of think-tanks is to force us to think, so we should at least consider the argument. Reform Scotland says accountability is at the heart of policing, and having one force for every local authority area, currently 32, would make the police accountable to the local communities they serve.
But consider this: while the principle of accountability is sound, there is little hard evidence that a massive expansion of forces, with 32 chief constables at the head of operationally separate forces, would improve policing and be cost-effective, even if they came together to pool administrative services. And this: Scotland’s population of five million makes it smaller than Greater Manchester, never mind London, yet both are served by one force.
For reasons of efficiency, allied to the obvious need to reduce the number of public organisations in Scotland, the creation of one police force make sense. However, within that force the appointment of divisional commanders answerable in public to local politicians, possibly one for each council area, would solve the problem of accountability – a proposition that is not far removed from the think-tanks’s idea.
Long-overdue radical but practical reform may be in sight