Police Scotland deemed success despite controversy

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House was quick to warn of potential tough times ahead. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House was quick to warn of potential tough times ahead. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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THE creation of Scotland’s controversial single force has left policing operationally stronger and better placed to deal with major events, according to a watchdog.

In its annual report, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said the formation of Police Scotland had been a success so far, but it warned challenges lay ahead.

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HM Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman said the reform process had been “effective to date”, with “minimal impact” on the service to the public.

But, he said, there were challenges remaining to the medium and long-term sustainability of the service, adding that while savings targets have been achieved for 2013/14, there are continuing financial challenges.

Last month, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House warned that the path ahead for the service was “not smooth” as he confirmed plans to cut support staff next year.

About 2,000 civilian staff have been lost through voluntary redundancy and early retirement schemes since 2009.

The Scottish Police Federation, a staff association, has warned that the force will continue to be “stretched” in the coming year, particularly when policing major public events.

Police Scotland will spend more than 90 per cent of its £1 billion annual budget on staff costs in 2014/15. Mr Penman said there was more equal access to specialist resources across the country since the formation of the single force.

He also praised Police Scotland for its handling of major events, notably the Clutha helicopter tragedy.

He said: “Policing is operationally stronger and better placed to deal with major events than the legacy police forces it replaced.

“However, the reform process has only begun and a major programme of change – with associated challenges – remains in terms of the medium to long-term sustainability.”

The watchdog’s report comes in the wake of various controversies for Police Scotland.

In October, it was forced to reverse a decision that saw armed officers deployed to routine incidents after objections were raised.

Earlier this year, it was also revealed that the number of police officers who hand in their notice has risen by 43 per cent each year since the inception of the country’s single national force.

And a damning report from Audit Scotland revealed last year that infighting threatened the reorganisation into a new single force.

However, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said: “The task of creating a single police service did not stop on 1 April, 2013, and the job is not yet complete.

“Further change is required to build a service which is operationally and financially sustainable.”

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