THE new Scottish police force is set for fresh confrontation with ministers over the siting of its long-term headquarters.
Police Scotland and its new chief constable Stephen House will operate out of converted accommodation at Tulliallan Castle, a police college near Kincardine, when it comes into being in April.
But the organisation is lobbying to make its permanent base in Glasgow, despite Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill insisting that Police Scotland should not be headquartered in either of the Central Belt’s two major cities.
House, who lives in the west of Scotland, is said to believe that Tulliallan should only be a temporary HQ for the new single Scottish force and favours a location closer to the main population centres.
One possible location is a new office block in the Dalmarnock area of Glasgow, which is being built by Clyde Gateway, with the help of £16 million in government grants. The site had previously been earmarked to replace Strathclyde Police’s ageing headquarters in Pitt Street, but the project was put on hold following the announcement of a single force.
Figures within Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde Police Authority and Police Scotland are understood to be keen to see it used by police, and not just as a divisional base, but as a national HQ.
That is expected to create tension with the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), set up to oversee Police Scotland. The authority believes the creation of a single force brings the opportunity to sell off surplus parts of the police estate to make savings and that should be carried out before expensive new headquarters are considered.
Almost £700,000 has already been spent on converting accommodation at Tulliallan to meet the needs of House and his team.
A move to Glasgow would also bring Police Scotland into direct conflict with the justice minister, who was keen to reassure other police forces around the country that Strathclyde would not dominate the new force’s thinking.
Last year, when asked about the location of the force, MacAskill said: “It will not be Edinburgh or Glasgow. Tulliallan seems fine as a place for a chief constable to be based.” A source said: “The view from Police Scotland is that they are very interested in Dalmarnock and see it as a potential headquarters building.
“There appears to be a personal desire from Steve [House] to get Dalmarnock built. We are going to see a bit of a lobby, even before 1 April, for it to be the headquarters.”
He added: “The board [of the SPA] are not anti-Dalmarnock, but they want to see a proper business case. A lot of police money has been spent on getting Tulliallan up to scratch and a six-figure sum has been spent on it.”
While House has not publicly supported Dalmarnock as the new headquarters, he does advocate a move from Tulliallan, the third choice of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), after Glasgow and Edinburgh. He said: “This [Tulliallan] is the interim headquarters. It was chosen for obvious reasons – it was not allocated to any particular force.
“It meets our needs at the moment, but I would expect, at some point in the future, to be talking about whether you can make this a permanent base or not.”
House wants a location which is accessible to the public, has good transport links, and is near major population centres.
“It does not matter whether it is Edinburgh or Glasgow, ” he said. “I don’t think there’s any point in having it outside the population centres.”
However, he does not believe being close to either the Scottish Parliament or St Andrew’s House should be a factor.
Moving the headquarters to Glasgow will further anger critics who claim the focus of Scottish policing will be too Central Belt orientated.
Martin Greig, convener of the current Grampian Joint Police Board, said: “There’s already been a Central Belt power grab. The location of the police headquarters in Glasgow is to be resisted as strongly as possible because we’ve already gone too far down the road of adopting the Strathclyde model of policing.”
Any decision on the new location of the police headquarters would have to go before Scottish ministers.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “The SPA board has been given some initial briefing on the ongoing work around the Dalmarnock project as part of the police estate but no formal proposals have been submitted to them.
“Any decision on a future HQ would require to be agreed with the SPA, and in consultation with the Scottish Government.”
The Scottish Government says the move to a single police force will save £130 million a year, or £1.7 billion over 15 years – a sum expected to be boosted by the sale of buildings that become obsolete.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “Regardless of the whereabouts of the new police headquarters, local services with strong connections to local communities will continue to be at the heart of the new police service.”
Lobbying to keep the headquarters at Tulliallan has also begun. In a recent blog, Bill Walker, the MSP for Dunfermline, said: “As a supporter of making Tulliallan the permanent HQ, I was happy to note that the chief constable does not seem opposed to the possibility, though the police service will have to weigh up the pros and cons of all alternatives.”