Mon 25 July 2016
We don’t often say nice things about Reform Scotland. They have a tendency to favour minimal public services, the play of the free market handing things to the private sector, all a bit grimly Thatcherite for our tastes. Upon hearing that they have published a new report, reaction in these parts is more likely to be “Oh dear” rather than “Oh really”. So when we looked at their latest publication about Policing in Scotland – it was a pleasant surprise to see that it made a great deal of sense.
The report is a précis of the evidence Reform Scotland are submitting to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Policing priorities for Scotland. They chime admirably with many of UNISON Scotland’s own observations and criticisms of Policing in Scotland over the last three years.
We have been highly critical of the way Police Scotland has been set up and run over the last numbers of years. Centralisation, an arbitrary target for uniformed officers and a demand for cash savings have not delivered the police service that Scotland deserves.
Reform Scotland agree with us that the (thankfully now dropped) 1000 extra officer target has done policing no favours. They are also critical of the ‘one size fits all’ model of policing priorities that UNISON members have been reporting since the setting up of Police Scotland. They attribute at least some of this to the removal of any local authority role in the governance of Police Scotland and the weakness of the Scottish Police Authority(SPA).
These are concerns we have expressed repeatedly – not least the weakness of the SPA. This quango lacks the capacity to hold Police Scotland to account in any significant sense, with local engagement a particular failing.
Reform Scotland’s proposal is for representatives from every council to sit on the board of SPA, and councils to be involved directly funding the police. Specifically they suggest monies to come from central and local government on a more or less 50/50 basis. At this point the proposals are starting to reach the point that civil servants in Yes Minister would describe as ‘ambitious’. Having 32 local authorities represented with whoever else needs to be accommodated would make for a pretty big board. And local government funding is arguably under enough uncertainty at the moment. But nonetheless whether or not these ideas represent the ideal solution, their can be little argument that Police Scotland needs a more local approach and better funding.
The other thing this report shows is that criticism of the current set up is coming from all parts of the political spectrum, and on a similar range of issues. Time for a change.
See also UNISON Scotland website Police page:
and our latest briefing on Police Best Value: