New Police Scotland chief admits ‘we didn’t get everything right’ in the past

New chief constable Iain Livingstone, who has started his first day in the role by speaking to the newest recruits to join the force. Picture: Police Scotland/PA Wire
New chief constable Iain Livingstone, who has started his first day in the role by speaking to the newest recruits to join the force. Picture: Police Scotland/PA Wire
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The new chief constable of Police Scotland has admitted his force made mistakes in the past by “imposing” national policies on local divisions.

Iain Livingstone, 51, began in his £217,000-a-year post yesterday after holding the position on an interim basis since last year.

In a message to Police Scotland’s 22,000 officers and staff, he acknowledged the force “didn’t get everything right” from its launch in 2013.

Mr Livingstone, a former solicitor, is the force’s third chief constable in five years, replacing Phil Gormley who resigned in February while the subject of five separate investigations into alleged gross misconduct.

The new chief constable said the national approach had brought benefits, but had also put “consistency and compliance before local diversity”.

He said: “I acknowledge that we didn’t get everything right at the outset of Police Scotland. The need to maintain an operational grip meant that sometimes we moved too quickly, we didn’t engage with our communities sufficiently. We were seen to impose national policies on local areas.

“That approach has brought benefits. For example, we can now say with certainty that every homicide in Scotland is dealt with to the highest possible standard. Every domestic abuse case is treated in the same way regardless of where the victim lives.

“But I know that it’s not one size fits all. It’s my intention to build a more devolved policing service that better meets the needs of local communities.”

Mr Livingstone takes up his post as his force – the UK’s second largest after the Metropolitan Police – begins a high-profile investigation into allegations against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Police Scotland, which faces budgetary pressures, admitted earlier this year that it needs extra funding totalling more than £200 million to modernise ageing computer systems.

It has faced a series of controveries since its creation more than five years ago, including rows over armed policing and stop-search. In July 2015, John Yuill and Lamara Bell died after their car crashed on the M9 near Stirling. It took officers three days to find the couple’s car after an initial call from a member of the public was not properly logged.

Mr Livingstone retired from policing last year but changed his mind following the decision by Mr Gormley to go on leave while allegations of bullying were investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).

Mr Gormley, a former chief constable of Norfolk, resigned with immediate effect earlier this year with ten months still to run on his contract.

Mr Livingstone told officers yesterday: “We have come through a challenging period with renewed purpose. I’ve always said leadership occurs at every level, and your leadership in the delivery of day-to-day policing has provided stability over the past year. My priority for the organisation is to lead the continued delivery of an outstanding police service for our fellow citizens.

“I have said it before, but it is important to keep saying it: policing in Scotland is strong, primarily because of our people.”

Speaking earlier this month following the announcement of Mr Livingstone as the new chief constable, Susan Deacon, chair of the Scottish Police Authority, said: “Iain Livingstone is an outstanding police leader who has made an exceptional contribution to policing in Scotland.

“I am confident that as chief constable, working with a recently strengthened leadership team, he will provide renewed stability, purpose and direction to Police Scotland after a demanding and challenging period.”