It is the norm that whatever the SNP view is, it is opposed by the opposition parties at Holyrood.
That has been the case with the SNP policy to create a single Police Scotland force. It was always a curiosity that Scotland, with a population of about 5.2 million, had eight police areas, each with a chief constable, while Greater Yorkshire, with about 7 million, had only one.
From the outset, opposition emanated from politicians, as well as from a number of senior police officers in Scotland.
The issues were featured in a Cosla-sponsored seminar at Roseburn House.
There was plenty of time to draft composite guidelines for the new Scottish Police Authority, but it appears that teething troubles took a while to iron out.
When the recruitment process was implemented, existing Scottish senior officers entered the competition for the top job.
However, the appointee was an “outsider”, albeit a Scot. I am sure it would be outwith their integrity to bear a grudge, but their lack of confidence does require explanation.
It is unacceptable that there has been so much confusion about the numbers of searches, and about consensual searches of under 12-year-olds.
However, the most significant narrative in your report (20 February) is the following quotation: “Sir Stephen said he accepted her [Margaret Mitchell MSP’s] comment [that the mix-up over stop and search figures] was “rather breathtaking”.
“During the session, the chief constable also indicated that voluntary searches would continue, even though it was against police policy to do so.
“‘It is a judgment call for operational officers. It is their decision. It is them who exercise the power – not the chief constable,’ Sir Stephen said.
“‘We don’t want a situation in Scotland where officers are carrying out wholesale consensual searches to under-12s.
“‘To that end we put in place a policy saying we don’t want to do consensual searches of under-12s.
“‘It is policy. It is not law. On a number of occasions, officers have stepped outside the policy, they have not stepped into illegality.
“‘What we have done is ask them to explain, why have you done that? If there is a fair explanation then so be it.’”
In other words, operational matters are the prerogative of the police. We cannot have a situation where every move by an on-duty policeman has to be approved by a politician – that would be a recipe for the emergence of a police state, and, with one or two exceptions, politicians lack the training and experience.
However, if they manage to draw blood on this occasion, it will simply whet their appetite – I guess they will never accept the concept of a single force for Scotland, because it was an SNP initiative.
Douglas R Mayer
I find it incredible that Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson of Police Scotland could appear before a Holyrood committee and say that data had been lost due to someone pressing the wrong button on their computer system.
Even basic domestic computers and software have in-built failsafe systems giving the user the option to proceed if they are sure they wish to delete material.
What other surprises are lurking within Police Scotland’s computers which may surface at a later date, with perhaps catastrophic consequences?
Police Scotland has recently had a rash of embarrassing issues. It is now time for the organisation’s hierarchy to get back behind their desks and get their house in order.
This can be done by structuring rational, positive and feasible policies for the benefit and safety of the people of Scotland. This cannot be done when they spend so much time appearing before the Scottish Police Authority and Holyrood committees to defend dubious decisions.
The gay abandon towards truth and accuracy exhibited by Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House when dealing with MSPs on Holyrood’s justice sub-committee on policing does not augur well for his force’s conviction rate.
If his attitude is shared by his subordinates, jurors in any criminal trial where the veracity of his officers’ evidence is at issue would be well advised to give the accused the benefit of the doubt and return a not guilty verdict.
John Eoin Douglas