Leader: Scotland needs a lean police machine

CUTTING back on administrative support jobs in any organisation is a painful but necessary part of adaptation to changing times and priorities.

In the case of support staff jobs across Scotland’s police forces, the task is no less difficult, but also no less necessary given the formidable and well-documented constraints on the Scottish budget overall.

Yesterday, public-sector union Unison leaped into the fray over the amalgamation of Scotland’s police forces, descrbing the planned reduction of some 2,000 support staff posts as “criminally wasteful, poorly thought out and highty provocative”. The rhetoric was cranked up by colourful claims of a police force being taken back to the 1970s, “like Life on Mars, a cop show set in a timewarp”.

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But the case for police force amalgamation has been powerfully made and broadly accepted as part of the Scottish Government’s manifesto programme. The shedding of duplicate bureaucracies and tiers of identical support staff surrounding police chiefs across eight different regions does not undermine the government’s commitment to maintain 1,000 extra police officers, but, on the contrary, makes that commitment more credible.

While much can be done to ease in these reforms, support staff cannot be preserved in aspic while technology and priorities change. These are tough times, with economies needing to be made across the board. But Scotland needs a lean police machine with priorities focused on the front line.

Overblown rhetoric and insistence that old ways must persist forever do not alter this reality or shake the case for restructuring.