The Scottish Government is currently considering merging Scotland’s eight police forces to create a single Scottish police force. According to the consultation, the driving force behind the proposals to merge Scotland’s police forces is to save money. It is possible merging all of Scotland’s police forces together will save money in the long term, although this is by no means certain given the previous experience of nationalised industries and the potential requirement for more complex management structures. However, the Scottish Government has not demonstrated that their proposals will improve the effectiveness of policing. With a large minority of the public already not having full confidence in their local police, such a move is only likely to increase the problem. The same principle being offered as the rationale behind the rationalisation of the police would also suggest that we get rid of all education authorities and deliver education from the centre or even abolish local authorities themselves. But such centralisation willnot offer better value for money and is a false economy.
In contrast, the driving force behind Reform Scotland’s proposals is what will lead to more effective policing in Scotland. Statistics outlined in the report illustrate there are a wide variety of different crime problems facing different areas of Scotland. Autonomous police forces are needed that have the power to manage budgets and assign resources to deal properly with those issues and co-ordinate their actions with the priorities of other local services. A one-size-fits-all approach driven from the centre is not the answer.
The current problem within policing is not just a lack of accountability, but more specifically a lack of local accountability. This can be solved by making Chief Constables accountable to local communities via locally elected councils. Instead of one police chief accountable to central government, we want police chiefs accountable to local communities, whilst strengthening the role of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency will mean that there is greater capacity for providing co-ordinating and supporting roles from the centre.
We believe that replacing the current system with the one outlined by Reform Scotland will improve accountability and help re-establish greater pride and confidence in both local and national policing in Scotland.