Centralising Police A Crass Error 24

The tragedy of the elderly dementia sufferer in Glasgow would in all probability not have been averted if a report to police had been handled properly. It was one of scores of reports of possible sightings the police received from members of the public. Besides, lives come to an end and we have to face that not all can do so as neatly and pleasantly as we would wish. But still it is a mistake that should not have been made, and increases the pressure on Police Scotland.

Having created a unitary police force, the Scottish government will have to accept it will get blamed for every police failing, whether related to the reorganisation or not. But that the reorganisation has knocked police morale badly is beyond dispute.

Policing is best done locally. Call centres have been reduced and centralised, and that reduces the possibility of speaking to someone who knows a little of the location and circumstance you are talking about. That is relevant to the crashed car case, and is just one illustration that policing is best kept local. The culture of the Western Isles is different to the culture of Aberdeen which is different to the culture of Glasgow which is different to the culture of the Highlands which is different to the culture of the Borders. Cultural sensitivity is a key aspect of policing. Besides Police should, in principle, be a local service not a national imposition of governmental authority.

The concept of a national police force has implications from which anyone of a naturally liberal frame of mind recoils. Its imposition, along with the incredibly statist “named person” policy and minimum alcohol pricing, reveals that there is a powerful strand within the SNP whose instincts are highly authoritarian. That is particularly worrying when we have gained a position of remarkable political dominance in Scotland – because of support for Independence. Those voting SNP want freedom from Westminster domination, but it is not an excuse to impose a big clunking State in Scotland.

One key marker of authoritarian states is an implied claim that the state is perfect and never makes mistakes. We could gain a lot of respect, and dispel a lot of fears, by admitting the single national police force was a major error and reversing it.

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24 thoughts on “Centralising Police A Crass Error

  • Peter Beswick

    The Mersey Tunnel Police can obviously stay, they have a very difficult job to do, but the rest have to go because thay are no longer fit for purpose, both the public’s expectation of purpose and the government’s.

    The reason; Trust, without the trust of the public or government the police in their current form do more harm than good.

    The mersey Tunnel Police are in the fortunate position of not needing anybody’s trust to do the job they do, excellant work, carry on.

  • nevermind

    I’m, sure that received emergency calls which are automatically put on an open channel, this could include radio stations in the local area, hospitals, all kinds of rescue services , etc. would eliminate such pitiful mistakes, somebody locally would check upon it.

    Why not favour the idea of a rotating police force,and electable chief constables?, should there not be a choice from the usual selection offered from our privatised ACPO?

    Whilst I agree with the sentiment of changing everything back to a local/regional police force, I feel that this should come with a detailed costing.
    To commit taxpayers to an extra expense, even if its just short term, would not be a good solution.

  • Socrates MacSporran

    The loss of local oversight in policing has been on-going for half a century. I live in Ayrshire, 50-years ago the county had three forces – Ayr County Constabulary, Ayr Burgh Police and Kilmarnock Burgh Police. Around that time, they were amalgamated into Ayrshire Constabulary, which, in due course, became Strathclyde Police, now Police Scotland.

    Economies of scale, when it comes to equipment procurement, are one good thing to come out of amalgamations, but, there can be no doubt, mistakes were made in setting-up Police Scotland.

    I was speaking to a former Strathclyde Police Divisional Commander, himself a former City of Glasgow Police constable. He was telling me, as part of the formation of Police Scotland, an entire level of management, Chief Inspectors and Superintendents, were dispensed with.

    Large, well-manned stations, where once there was a Superintendent, and maybe three Chief Inspectors, are now under the command of one Chief Inspector. Also, while the number of “Chiefs” has been cut, so too have the numbers of “Indians”. Particularly in rural areas, on the night shift, it is often a case of one PC covering many square miles.

    Also, according to my contfidant, who still has contacts within the force, under the soon to retire Stephen House, morale has slumped, too-many former Met offiers have come north to: “show the Jocks how to tun a police force” and there are problems from top to bottom.

    Sorting-out PS should be a major project for the Scottish Government.

  • fred

    “One key marker of authoritarian states is an implied claim that the state is perfect and never makes mistakes. We could gain a lot of respect, and dispel a lot of fears, by admitting the single national police force was a major error and reversing it. ”

    Instead they are trying to bring the Transport Police north of the border under Police Scotland as well.

    They don’t just want more say, they want total domination.

  • Robert Crawford

    The Police are fundamentally corrupt, whether they are local or now National.

    The government gives them the “get out” of Freedom of Information Act with Clause 1,( I think it is called) so that they can protect themselves from complaints of wrong doing, as I have done. Now I am their (police) target. I will say this again for the umpteenth time, ” I am not a criminal, never have been and do not have as much as a “parking ticket to my name”. Still they will not allow my request under the Freedom of Information Act, to know what is logged against me. Furthermore, Nicola Sturgeon will not do anything to help me. I have asked. Is she on the side of the police? Of course she is!

    One advantage to me that came my way from 101 is. I asked what was happening with a complaint I had made about a threat from a member of our local bad family ( every village has it’s bad family) who, threatened to “punch my fucking head in”. The person on the switchboard looked my complaint up on her computer and started to tell me what was logged against my name. Then realised her mistake, apologized, and started reading the opposite side of the log.

    Now, if you want to get someone into trouble with the police, just get two friends to call the police and say the same thing about them. This is then the Gospel!!! If two people say the same thing about you. Whether these people are criminals with a Record as long as your arm, the police treat it as Gospel.

    The police are the biggest shower of scroungers, boozers, womanizers, thugs on the street, in my experience.

    By the nature of my business I had to deal with the police every week, once or twice a week. One soon gets to know what they are really like.

    If we could just sack them the way we have learned to deal with politicians in Scotland, without them leaving with a barrow load of money, as House appears to be doing, the sooner the better.

    There is pluses and minuses for each system. the problem is the police themselves.

    They are not all bad, however, too many are. If my information is correct, there is cops with criminal records still in the police. How come?

  • Thomas Widmann

    My guess is the single police force was created in order to introduce a Scottish dimension in preparation for independence, which makes sense. I don’t see anything wrong in having one person in charge of policing in Scotland.

    The error was to treat the new Scottish police force as one single entity, basically as if Strathclyde police had swallowed up the rest of the police forces.

    I don’t think the solution consists of reversing the creation of Police Scotland, but instead to decentralise most functions to new Scottish Police Regions, perhaps copying the structure of similar-sized European countries like Ireland, Denmark or Norway.

  • John S Warren

    An interesting article, but too short to do justice to the issues raised.

    When Police Scotland was initially proposed the first thought I had stayed with me (with increasing incredulity) ever since. It was first expressed by Juvenal, so I claim no originality: ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ The answer, of course is ‘Nobody’. As a broad rule, and it is almost axiomatic in Britain, Regulators become little more than the creatures of the regulated. We need not look past the Credit Crunch. The academic journals are stuffed with papers on the subject.

    We do all regulation in Britain badly (and Scotland is not immune from this), and too late; worst of all in Westminster. Just think of the number of UK national ‘regulators’ in recent decades that failed so disastrously that they were beyond reform: they have had to be discarded and replaced. Usually they have been replaced by a new regulator that will wearisomely prove in time to be no more adequate than the one that was discredited and abandoned. Regulation in Westminster at least, is typically (and so often) so badly conceived it is becoming difficult to avoid the belief that the underlying purpose was that it did not matter greatly to the legislaltors if it failed (perhaps maintaining the hope that nobody will notice, or at least act for a long time). Holyrood must show that it can do better.

    The general point you make about ‘localism’ is well-made, up to a point but is perhaps a little rosy (although it will chime with the electorate’s instincts); nevertheless it fails to address the complexity and tensions of resources and expertise (not all criminality is local): no doubt I am responding to an article that is too short by similarly over-simplifying, but your argument seems, somehow imbued with a sentimental and anachronistic Salisbury-Conservatism in an age of global communications and (so-called) ‘markets’ that are driven by uncontrolled, unregulated corporate neo-liberal piracy, and the Pandora’s Box that has consequently been opened.

  • John Walsh

    I think the subject should be revisited with maybe a tiered police Force ie.Police National, and Police Local as they have in some European countries , this could appear a tactical rethink and not a climb down from the SG. Local Police Chief’s elected not appointed. With the geographic challenges of Scotland this would be a more appropriate use of our police force.

  • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

    Bravo, Craig. Hitherto predisposed to accepting SNP intent as benign. Now increasingly alarmed at micro-interventionism. Particularly the current unconscionable legislation embedding universal ‘in loco parentis’ state-prerogative over our children.

  • vronsky

    An emerging problem is the paradoxical immunity of the SNP from criticism. The media and the other political parties have for so long flung witless and groundless accusations against the SNP that all criticism is now discounted as just more of the same tomfoolery.

    It is difficult to find anything that looks like objective analysis of SNP policy: if you are an SNP supporter then everything they do is right, if not then everything they do is wrong.

    Social workers, teachers and educational psychologists I know have said that the Named Person Act is just a formalisation of what already happens. Objections to it (there are a number of sites campaigning against it) seem mostly to be of the ‘slippery slope’ variety.

    Perhaps Craig, or someone, could explain how the Act changes current practice and why this is a bad thing (*is* a bad thing – not ‘might become a bad thing under certain vaguely plausible circumstances’)

    Something similar applies in the case of centralised policing. I would like to have an opinion but it is impossible to find dispassionate assessments.

  • Juteman

    If your budget from Westminster is being slashed, how else do you keep the same number of police officers?
    I would be worried if a rich, independent country was doing this through choice.
    Maybe you and Fred could team up and work for free?

  • labsrus

    Agree Vronsky, I tend to disbelieve everything I hear through the MSM and politicians about the SNP as most of it is nonsense. I will look into things online though.

    I am an SNP supporter but I do not believe everything they do is right, I will however support them until we get independence and I think a lot of people are the same.

    However I do agree that people who are not SNP supporters are against everything they do, that is if they are unionists. I think Greenor SSP voters may be a little less biased against the SNP, or I would like to believe so anyway!

  • Rob Royston

    Police Scotland’s re-structuring must have caused some ill feeling in the local lodges. All these promised career prospects wiped out by the arrival of the new Supercop from the south with his mantra “You’re either on my bus or you’re under it”.
    Makes you wonder what its all about.

  • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

    While welcoming and pretty much endorsing Vronsky’s post (4:18), I would make a couple of observations:

    Firstly, I would re-assert the compelling legitimacy of the ‘slippery slope’ argument, which remains the substance of my own objection. We oppose mandatory ID cards, Government internet-monitoring, saturation surveillance etc largely on this basis.

    Secondly, I also have been reassured by a professional in the child care field regarding the Named Person Act. However, with all due respect to these good folk, they are not the party being bypassed and potentially disempowered. Quite the contrary. That unhappy lot falls to parents. Any “dispassionate” assessments forthcoming from the latter?

  • John Spencer-Davis

    25/09/2015 9:26pm

    This is certainly a deplorable case. I feel for this unfortunate lady and especially for the family she has left behind, who must be going through desperate grief right now.

    In case anyone is concerned about their own nearest and dearest, I sometimes work with people who wander and I ask families or carers to consider a satellite tracking system with a device that can be worn on the body. It does not guarantee safety, because people can leave it behind, let the battery run down, etc. But it is suitable for many people and can give a good deal of peace of mind in some cases.

    An example is Mindme Locate.


    These devices are mostly produced by commercial organisations for profit. Mindme Locate costs about £80 for the equipment and about £17 per month subscription. It is unusual for the NHS or for the local council to pay for such devices – there has to be considerable clinical justification – but it is certainly worth asking if the person cannot afford these amounts. Also, people who wander will certainly be entitled to Attendance Allowance (or Personal Independence Payment if under 65), which at a minimum of £55.10 per week can be a great help.

    Kind regards,


  • John Spencer-Davis

    Oh, and usually if you buy equipment to assist with a disability or are charged a monthly rental it is exempt from VAT, which reduces the cost quite considerably.

    Kind regards,


  • fwl

    When did the police force’s stop providing police houses? Am I correct in thinking that whereas the police lived in the communities in which they served the preference now id that they do not live and serve in the same area ie independence is preferred to local knowledge?

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