CRIME writer Ian Rankin has joined the chorus of criticism over the new national police service - branding the shake-up “a pain” when writing his books.
Ahead of the launch of his new “Rebus” novel, set at the time of the controversial merger Lothian & Borders Police with other forces around the country, Rankin said the new regime had led to a string of “bonkers” changes.
He bemoaned the downgrading of Edinburgh’s old police headquarters, the scrapping of traditional terms like CID, and even a booze ban which has been introduced for retirement parties for senior officers.
Rankin revealed how some of his police insiders in the capital had complained to him about having to recycle old L&B uniforms.
And he revealed he had included a dig at the new Police Scotland regime, led by former Strathclyde police constable Stephen House, in his new stage play Dark Road, which current and former police officers in Edinburgh had lapped up.
‘Change is a pain’
Speaking at the first event to launch his new novel, Saints of the Shadow Bible, the Edinburgh-based author revealed he had almost got a police force friend into serious trouble when he tweeted details of a serious incident which had just happened.
Rankin revealed he had been inspired to write his new novel after he collected numerous anecdotes when he attended a police retirement party. The scene is replicated in the book, when the last chief constable of L&B is hosting his leaving party at the old Fettes HQ building.
He told an audience at the Aberfeldy Festival: “The book is set in March of this year for one specific reason.
“On 1 April everything changed in the police in Scotland. There is no longer a Lothian and Borders Police, there is no longer a chief constable for any of the regions, they don’t exist any more. It’s been a pain in the ****.
“There’s no CID anymore. I keep texting mates in the police and asking them what they call it, but they tell me they don’t know.
“To save money people in Lothian and Borders Police were told to go home and unpick the threads on their sweatshirts, so it just says ‘police’, and stick post-it notes on them if they were meeting members of the public.
“I was at the HQ last week for another retirement do.
“If you go to the old police headquarters at Fettes, it doesn’t even say police HQ or Fettes, it doesn’t say anything, because they don’t know what to call it. It’s just absolutely bonkers, but it’s all to save money apparently. It’s not saving my sanity.
“I went to this retirement do at Fettes last week and said: ‘where’s the booze?’ I was told it’s orange juice and water only now. I used to like going to them.”
Rankin, who received help from the old L&B force while he was researching his debut novel in the mid-1980s, also said he had inadvertently sparked a mole hunt within the police when he tweeted news about a serious incident after getting a tip-off while he was at a Christmas panto at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh.
He added: “I nearly got a friend of mine in the police into trouble. They actually had an investigation to try to find out who had grassed, who had told me about it. It taught me a lesson. If it could have been traced back he would have been in big trouble.”
Meanwhile Rankin, who has vowed to take next year off because he is “knackered and shattered”, has become the latest high-profile figure in the arts to vow to steer clear of the independence debate.
The author, who touches on the debate in the new book, which features two characters on either side of the argument, said: “I honestly haven’t decided yet, but there are a lot of questions I’ve got in my head that I want to get answered first.
“I’m trying to keep out of it, I’m just desperately trying to keep out of the whole thing.
“I don’t want to say there are more important things in life, but there is a lot of stuff that are our politicians could be doing that don’t seem to be getting done right now because everybody is so busy thinking about the referendum.”
Rankin, who is touring the UK over the next week before heading to Canada to promote the new book, revealed a new collection of his short stories would be published next year, along with the text of the play Dark Road, which will also be heading off on tour around the UK in 2014, after winning acclaim when it was premiered at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in September.
Saints of the Shadow Bible is published on Thursday.