COALITION government plans to allow direct entry to senior police jobs will create a counter-terrorism risk, Scotland’s chief constable has warned.
Steve House was scathing about the prospect of foreign nationals being allowed to run forces.
Although the policy would only affect police in England and Wales, counter-terrorism is largely reserved, and a flaw south of the border would also put Scots at greater risk.
Mr House told the Holyrood conference on policing yesterday: “We’re different in terms of our leadership. England and Wales will soon have direct entry at inspector and superintendent level, and perhaps at chief constable level.
“I have to say the concept of a foreign national becoming the chief constable of an English or Welsh force seems absurd to me.
“You might say, it’s protectionism of the worst kind. My objection is more practical than that.
“Every chief constable in every force, but in urban forces it is even more true, has a role to play in counter-terrorism.
“I simply struggle to see how a senior chief constable from another country is going to be able to deal with that conundrum.
“to whom are they reporting when they get intelligence on terrorism? Who are they liaising with? Are they liaising with the British security service? Or another security service?”
A new Scottish force will come into being on 1 April.
Mr House said it was “absurd” that the Home Office has ruled out mergers, at least to a regional structure, and will continue to have 43 in England and Wales.
The conference also heard Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill insist there would continue to be an extra 1,000 officers on the beat, despite police being told to make savings of £1.7 billion over 15 years.
Mr House has previously warned the extra officers would be difficult to protect beyond next year in the face of such cuts.
“Maintaining officer numbers is an important part of the Scottish Government’s pledge to ensure communities stay safe and strong,” Mr MacAskill told the conference.
The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents was also critical of people being allowed to join police forces in England and Wales at inspector or superintendent rank.
“It does a serious disservice to the people who have devoted their lives to the protection of the public and bringing offenders to justice,” it said in a statement.
The UK government is currently consulting on whether to allow people to join police forces at senior ranks.
It would only cover countries that practice “policing by consent”, such as Australia and the US.
A Home Office spokesman said:
“By opening up the police to a wider pool of talent, forces will be able to bring in people with diverse backgrounds and new perspectives. We would always expect successful candidates to undergo the appropriate vetting procedures.
However, the Scottish Government made clear a similar policy would not be introduced in Scotland.
A spokeswoman said: “The recruitment of senior officers in England and Wales is a matter for the Home Office.
“The Justice Secretary has already made clear that he is not in favour of direct entry recruitment in Scotland as it undermines policing and those who have worked hard to earn promoted posts. “We will not introduce direct entry in Scotland and are confident that those officers with the right skills and experience can and will be promoted through.”