Jim Duffy: A political farce was responsible for Police Scotland
Tracy Chapman penned and performed some great songs that focused those people who have less in our society. From Fast Car to Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution, she addressed causes that affected people’s lives in a simple and empathetic way. I guess the politicians of her time had the opportunity to fix many of these issues, but did not or perhaps could not.
Listening to her songs now makes me think about the anxiety, uncertainty and stress that our politicians are causing us, while they purport to sort society out. They are so reactive to media and policy gurus and change for the sake of it, simply to leave a legacy, that they forget about the real people left behind to deal with the s*** when they leave.
One glaring example of this political farce is the state of Police Scotland. Where is Alex Salmond now, having created a monster? My understanding is he is now working for another monster on Russian TV.
Police Scotland should never have come into existence. It was created with the clear aim of transforming frontline policing. Policing that would have us in awe of its efficiency, presence and ethos as it kept us all safe. Let’s not forget the police car with two young officers in it, stopped at the traffic lights, is all that protects you from the forces of disorder. We can all go about our business, make money, enjoy the shopping malls at Christmas, walk the streets at night and not feel threatened because of these two young officers and the apparatus that supports and leads them is in place and working well – no thanks to the political interference and downright hubris of Salmond and the SNP.
Four years after Police Scotland was forced into being – like a vet pulling and tugging at a dead calf inside its mother’s womb – we now have a leaderless and rudderless force that is looking for someone to get a grip of it. Yes, eight police forces that worked well, albeit with some tweaks needed, are now operating with a heavy heart as shown by high sickness rates, lifeless call centres and low morale. Two chief constables have worked at the helm since its inception. The current chief, Phil Gormley, is ‘tending his garden’ on leave while he faces an investigation into allegations of bullying. I’ve never met or worked for the man, so I have no idea if he is indeed a bully. But, we now have five people willing to come forward with complaints about him and the word “bully” is the talk of the sergeants’ and inspectors’ offices in police stations throughout the land.
Backed by many politicians at Holyrood, Police Scotland came into force in April 2013 for all the wrong reasons. The primary reason, of course, for all political decisions these days is saving money in a time of austerity. With 17,250 officers and about 5,500 policing staff, together with 1,404 special constables, Police Scotland is a pretty big operation. Indeed it is number two in terms of staff numbers after the Met in London. But it is not a budget airline, where cost cutting is the order of the day, and can never be perceived as such. It has to be seen as a national carrier like BA that has a premium. The BA chief executive gets paid millions in base salary, share options, pension and more. But the Chief Constable of Scotland gets a measly £214,404.
The guy or gal who was put in place to run this operation should be on at least half a million. And this is where Alex Salmond and other politicians at the time should have had the balls not to worry about what the Scottish media said and reinvented a whole new regime. But, alas there you go, it says it all. The creation of such a huge public corporate body needed something more, something special and those skills really do cost.
With a litany of errors and mistakes at control rooms, firearms officers on our streets carrying sidearms without any tangible public consultation and stories about spying on journalists, Police Scotland has not had a great time in its infant years. And so it goes on. But, it is unfair to blame Police Scotland. It is unfair to give a blanket representation of Police Scotland as not fit for purpose or indeed a basket case. No indeed, that is too politically expedient for politicians.
Surely the blame lies with the man who led the baton charge – Mr Alex Salmond and his then justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill. The noble remit of reducing headquarters’ bureaucracy and delivering autonomy to the frontline has resulted in a sham with one chief constable stepping down and another looking after his tomatoes and herbs.
And where is Mr Salmond? Re-creating himself as a media man on LBC and RT TV. I’m not calling for him to have rotten fruit and veg thrown at him as he is chained in the stocks on George Street. But shouldn’t he at least try to help fix the mess he helped to create? Is that unreasonable? Maybe one day, when we as a society are less malleable and doped up on social media, there will indeed be a revolution as Tracy Chapman talked about. But, of course then, who will we all rely upon to save us all? Police Scotland and the hard-working staff there caught in the middle. Perhaps it is time to dial 999 on the SNP and Mr Salmond – and make sure to get a crime number.