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Police Scotland replaces pervious eight territorial forces

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Stephen House, Police Scotland’s new chief constable, believes the new national police service will reign down as an example for England and Wales, becoming a model for the ‘inevitable’ merge of the 43 forces.

In an attempt to save money by combining costs, the new unified force is supposed to be more efficient. However, critics claim this change will lead to a loss in local policing and that Scotland’s rural areas, such as farming and fishing counties of Dumfries and Galloway, will become neglected.

Regardless, Stephen House finds the territorial structure unsustainable across the rest of the UK as evidenced by his recent comments: "My personal view is that structural change is inevitable down south." Clearly in House’s mind England and Wales will soon follow suit, despite vigorous resistance from chief constables and local councils in the two countries.

Despite the previous suggestion of job cuts in the “low thousands”, House has revealed that in fact only 100 voluntary redundancies have been carried out in preparation for the new Police Scotland.

Since his appointment six months ago, House has already formed one national specialist crime division by merging Scotland’s CID and specialist units – 2,000 detectives now working within one sole division. Ultimately, House aims to provide "highly visible and accessible policing, coupled with improved access to those specialist services which are needed when threat and harm exists in communities".

The chief constable has also outlined his priorities for the force moving forward:

  • improving the investigation of rapes
  • tackling domestic violence
  • reducing violent crime

Fundamentally, if any police officer in Scotland could "wave a magic wand" to grant one wish it would be to reduce alcohol consumption – arguably alcohol can be a contributing factor to the above priorities.

Nonetheless the diversity of Scotland’s areas is drawing in further criticism for one sole force with a new single police authority's 13 members.

For instance, the Scottish Liberal Democrats' justice spokeswoman, Alison McInnes has questioned House’s decision to have armed officers on permanent patrol across the country. Although this may be necessary for the likes of urban Glasgow, outside major cities the policy seems alien to Scotland's tradition unarmed policing.

"We're on a dangerous road here. With much greater control from the centre, the big decisions about what style of policing we have and what the major priorities will be set by a single police authority board, which is a group of 13 unelected people," McInnes said. "There's a democratic deficit now, quite clearly."

Ministers believe the merger should save £1.4bn over 15 years and while overall crime in Scotland is at a 37-year low, detection rates are varied. Some forces’ records on solving complex crimes are actually rather poor and accordingly Police Scotland aims to make policing across the entire country much more efficient.

However, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, believes the Scottish government are overlooking the value of local leadership and connection. "Actually making sure there is local policing by local consent is something we should cherish, and we should not dismiss too lightly," he said.