The briefing, Reinventing local policing, welcomes the emphasis placed on localism and accountability within the Scottish Government’s consultation on police priorities, while highlighting concerns about how that can practically be implemented under the current structure.
The briefing also welcomes the consultation proposal to abolish the arbitrary ‘1000 extra officers’ target, which Reform Scotland called for in its 2015 publication, The Thinning Blue Line.
However, Reform Scotland believes that more must be done to re-inject localism into policing, and Reinventing local policing suggests three policy measures to do so:
- Funding: before the creation of Police Scotland, local authorities contributed to 50% of police funding. This funding structure should be reinstated.
- Governance: Each local authority should have the right to nominate a representative to the Scottish Police Authority
- Local government reform: The SNP’s manifesto has a commitment to review the structure of local government. Reforms to local authorities need to be made ahead of reforming police governance; the horse must be put before the cart.
Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:
“Reform Scotland opposed the creation of Police Scotland for the very reasons which have gradually been identified as problems, mainly the lack of local accountability. We are therefore pleased that the Scottish Government has placed an emphasis on localism and accountability in its draft priorities, including the proposal to drop the arbitrary ‘1000 extra officers’ pledge.
“However we remain concerned that, under the current centralised structure, there is no obvious way to actually make localism happen.
“For that reason, we have proposed that both the funding and governance structure must change. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and on that principle we believe that local authorities should again be responsible for funding 50% of policing, with the Scottish Government continuing to fund the other 50%.
“Furthermore, we believe that each local authority should be able to nominate a member of the Scottish Police Authority to ensure that local priorities are adequately represented.
“The creation of Police Scotland was a mistake, and in the absence of any further wholesale reform we all have a responsibility to make the smaller changes which can help re-create local policing.”