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.