by Kerry Gill
The number of police forces should be hugely expanded to make them more accountable to local scrutiny and effective in combating crime, accoring to a think tank.
Instead of reducing the existing eight forces to three, or even one as has been suggested, Reform Scotland, suggests that each of our 32 local authorities should have its own force.
Its report, Striking the Balance, says: Reform Scotland recognises that the current structure needs to change, but believes such change needs to move in the opposite direction with more local, accountable policing, rather than a centralised service.”
Their proposal would mean, for example, that Central Scotland would be divided up into three forces, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling.
Lothian and Borders would become, Edinburgh, Scottish Borders, Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian, and Northern would be split into Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands, Orkney and Shetland. Strathclyde would become 12 forces – including the return of City of Glasgow Police.
The report states: “rather than one chief constable being accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, we would have 32 chief constables accountable to local councillors.”
It goes on: “currently there is no identifiable person in charge of policing in Glasgow; rather there is Chief Constable Stephen House who is responsible for the whole of Strathclyde and three chief superintendents who cover Glasgow.”
Alison Payne, one of the authors, said: “Just as there are different crime problems facing the different police forces in Scotland, there are different crime problems facing different areas within forces.”
SNP MSP and Holyrood Justice Committee member John Finnie said: “Any police reform conducted by the SNP will focus on maintinaing the connection between police officers and their communities, keeping those communitiesi safe and cutting crime.”
Meanwhile, Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, was told at the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland annual conference in Dunblane that a single force was the way ahead.
Strathclyde Police Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson compared the current structure with a much loved 1970s police car which was now unfit for use.
He said: “There is no sense from a finanical, economic or efficiency standpoint of trying to keep this thing on the road.”
But Professor Jim Gallagher, former head of the Scottish Justice Department, told Mr Richardson that not enough focus was given to how the single force would be run.