Letter: National police

THERE has to be a worry that the proposal for a single Scottish national police force is obscuring serious debate on how to get better value from our police.

Professor Jim Gallaher (Perspective, 14 July) rightly points out that an all-Scotland single police force will not save money on anything like the scale the Scottish Government seeks.

Experience of major reorganisations in local government or the NHS suggest some costs are likely to increase. For sure, any savings are in the long term. The Scottish people are against a single national force, as are the police, overwhelmingly so.

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As Gallaher says, police governance should give real powers and influence to local councillors. There may be a need for greater clarity about the role of Scottish ministers and MSPs, but local accountability comes in the main through Joint Police Boards on which councils are represented.

The fact that the boards choose their chief constable is fundamental. The argument that this local control can be provided by senior police officers "consulting" local councils throughout Scotland is untenable.

Some months ago it was reported that a police officer, Mark Kennedy, had operated undercover in a group of environmental activists in Nottinghamshire for eight years. The case against six of the activists collapsed after it was discovered the police had suppressed secret tapes that "fatally undermined the case against the protesters". It was even claimed that Kennedy became an agent provocateur.

Metropolitan Police officers in London have been accepting bribes from the News of the World, over a number of years it seems, for confidential information. Undercover police work is of course necessary, not least to combat terrorism, whether domestic or international. The police work with the security service, the Secret Intelligence Service and other government bodies where appropriate.

Launching the official consultation document on policing in February the justice secretary stated that "policing in Scotland has, historically and correctly, happened by consent and this should remain". For the Scottish ministers and the Scottish Parliament now to ride roughshod over the response to the consultation would surely be utterly unacceptable.

(Rt Hon Dr) Gavin Strang

Parliamentary intelligence and security committee 2001-2005

MP for Edinburgh East

Western Harbour Place