Deal signals end of new police force row as Kenny MacAskill steps in

A DEAL aimed at ending a destructive dispute at the top of the new national police force has been struck.

A DEAL aimed at ending a destructive dispute at the top of the new national police force has been struck.

However, the agreement was altered following a last minute intervention from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

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The row between Chief Constable Steve House and Scottish Police Authority chairman Vic Emery had centred on who would control HR and finance staff.

The solution - which Mr Emery denied was a “compromise” - was that two teams would be created, one working closely with Mr House, the other with the police authority.

Mr MacAskill intervened earlier in the week to say those working with Mr House should be employed by the Police Scotland force itself, instead of the authority, which was agreed at yesterday’s meeting in Glasgow.

However, he was criticised for leaving it so late.

Mr House told the meeting: “In relation to the intervention by the Scottish Government, I welcome the development and I would echo what (Mr Emery) said that it would have been useful if it came much earlier in this debate and they made clear that was their view early on. It’s a shame that this has come so late on.”

He added that “the principle (of the agreement) is not one that I said is best suited to running the police service”.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats had warned Mr House was being “stripped of powers” by the police authority.

Willie Rennie also said the agreement amounted to a “jumble”.

Mr House said: “It’s good to hear him speak on it because I thought some of the things he said were very sensible, but I don’t think it’s a jumble.”

Mr Emery was more critical.

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“I don’t know where Willie Rennie gets his information from but like other information that’s in the public domain, it’s inaccurate and badly informed,” he said.

“This is not a compromise. I think (Mr House) was completely happy because he wanted to get into the detail to reassure himself about the principles agreed today. So I didn’t detect that he was unhappy but I think he was trying to make sure that he gets the best possible structure that he can.”

Mr MacAskill denied that the public spat has held up planning for the new Police Scotland force, which will go live on 1 April.

“The Police Service of Scotland has announced a new national trunk roads patrol unit, a specialist crime division, improved firearms cover, a national initiative to improve rape investigation, a new single non-emergency number which will go live on 1 April and a local policing plan for every single council ward,” he said yesterday.

“None of this progress has been impeded by ongoing discussions about corporate functions. However, today’s agreement will ensure that the police and Scottish Police Authority can continue to work together and concentrate on ensuring a smooth transition to day one.”

However, Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The fact is this should have been sorted out long before now, with less than three months to go before the single force comes into being.

“The whole idea behind a Scotland-wide police service was to reduce duplicity, yet one of the first major hurdles is jumped by more doubling up.

“The SNP now has to explain if the original savings projection is still the same, or will this move reduce that number.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr House said: House said: “The amendment is a welcome development which allows us to focus on the delivery of a national policing service for April.”