Pressure on Police Scotland over ‘bad news’ survey

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has defended the formation of a single force. Picture: John Devlin
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has defended the formation of a single force. Picture: John Devlin
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POLICE Scotland is being urged to publish the results of a major staff survey which senior officers expected would bring “bad news” for the force.

Scottish Labour’s new justice spokesman Graeme Pearson, himself a former police officer, said there was a need for “full transparency” over the exercise, which was carried out earlier this year.

Launching the survey in May, Police Scotland said it was braced for forthright views following reductions in staffing levels and cost-cutting carried out as a result of police reform.

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said he expected “a degree of discomfort and bad news” from the 23,000 officers and staff taking part, despite many becoming less “angst-ridden” about changes to their duties following the establishment of the single force.

Pearson, a former deputy chief constable of Strathclyde Police and director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said both Police Scotland and the Scottish Government needed to be “honest” about the problems affecting the force.

“We know that rank-and-file officers are under huge pressure because of the decisions taken by government ministers and the leadership of Police Scotland,” he said.

“They are doing their best in very difficult circumstances. Cuts to civilian staff numbers and budgets mean officers and civilian staff are doing more with less. That’s unsustainable.

“No matter how many joint statements the leadership of the Scottish Police Authority [SPA] and Police Scotland issue, the big problems faced by officers and civilian staff can’t be swept under the carpet.”

All of Police Scotland’s 17,000 police officers and 5,500 civilian staff were given 20 minutes in work time to fill out the staff survey.

The survey, which was not compulsory, featured a mix of multi-choice questions and space for staff to give more detailed responses.

Pearson said: “If the Chief Constable and SNP justice minister Michael Matheson really value the opinions of officers and civilian staff then they would publish the results of this staff survey without delay,” he said. “The fact that it has taken so long to make the views of police officers known isn’t acceptable.

“We need full transparency from the SNP Government and Police Scotland. Only by being honest about the problems in our police service can we hope to be able to reform it.”

Earlier this week, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House released a joint statement with Vic Emery, chair of the SPA, in which the pair defended the national force.

Police Scotland, which was formed through the merger of the country’s eight regional forces in 2013, has been hit by a series of controversies, most recently the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill. The couple spent three days in their crashed car after a call to the police was not properly logged.

House said policing was stronger now than under the legacy arrangements because of the ability to share knowledge and resources across the organisation.

His comments followed an attack by former SNP leader Gordon Wilson, who called for “root and branch” reform of Police Scotland.

Wilson, who led the SNP between 1979 and 1990, published a paper arguing the police should be reorganised on a federal basis by re-establishing regional forces.

He said: “Most countries have local police as well as national organisations. Replacing the leader or trimming the leadership team will not resolve the fundamental weaknesses embodied in the structure of Police Scotland.

“While retaining the benefits of a national structure through Police Scotland, power and direction must be devolved to quasi-autonomous local police forces, each under the control of a chief constable and subject to local oversight.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “The joint SPA/Police Scotland officer and staff engagement survey closed at the end of June. The results are currently being analysed by an independent organisation and, as planned, the results will be published as soon as possible. We look forward to working with all our employees as we go forward taking into account any changes which may be needed.”