Mounting calls for review of Police Scotland

Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House. Picture: Contributed
Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House. Picture: Contributed
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THE Scottish Government is facing renewed calls for a wide-ranging review of Police Scotland amid mounting criticism of the national force.

Both the Tories and Lib Dems have called for an investigation into the running of the service following a number of high-profile controversies.

It comes after Chief Constable Sir Stephen House launched a defence of his force following calls for it to be disbanded.

A statement from Sir Stephen and Vic Emery, the chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), released on Thursday, said policing was stronger now than under the eight legacy forces.

The release of the statement came after ex-SNP leader Gordon Wilson said Police Scotland should be broken up into four regional units.

The Lib Dems said Police Scotland, the SPA and the Scottish Government faced a “crisis of confidence” unless steps were taken to put accountability back into policing.

The party’s leader, Willie Rennie, said: “The tragic M9 crash, unabated use of consensual stop and search, armed police on our streets and police spying claims have eroded public trust in the ability of Police Scotland to serve communities. This isn’t fair on police officers or the communities they serve.

“That is why I want an independent review into the SNP’s police reforms. It will ensure lessons are learnt, and put policing in Scotland back on the right tracks.” A spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives added: “The new single force has been in meltdown for some time with national police force chiefs seemingly acting as they please.

“The public need to feel safe on our streets and if Police Scotland are going to earn people’s trust we need a fundamental review of the way in which they are working, not a celebratory pat on the back.”

The calls for a review came as Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), said the force needed to provide a local focus for communities who felt the centralised service had made policing more remote.

Mr Rennie said: “We are currently under examination in respect of several big-ticket matters. These are drawing significant political interest and filling the columns of our papers on a daily basis. Despite this, I suspect that it is the closure of police offices and a perceived loss of local identity that concerns the public most. Having contributed to the discussion which led to the creation of the Police and Fire Scotland Act 2012, I am aware that the desire to retain a strong sense of localism was at the heart of the bill.

“It is apparent that, as yet, the aim of the legislation in this regard has not come to pass.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Police in Scotland are accountable to the SPA, not ministers. While the SPA performs a vital role in ensuring Police Scotland is held to account, it is also absolutely essential these two organisations work closely together.

“We have confidence that the Scottish Police Authority will continue to perform a vital role in ensuring Police Scotland is held to account.

“The ability of our police to continue to operate without political interference – a long-standing principle in Scotland – is of fundamental importance and we have absolutely no plans to change this.”