POLICE plan to create a new intelligence unit dealing with murders, drugs smuggling, counter-terrorism and border security, which will sit at the heart of Scotland’s new single force.
The Specialist Crime Directorate will have its headquarters in North Lanarkshire, once it is completed towards the end of next year, and will have charge of up to 2,000 police officers – 12 per cent of the total in Scotland.
The SCD is the most significant policing announcement since it was confirmed Scotland would move to a single force.
It will take over the roles of the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency, counter-terrorism, major crime, including all homicides, port policing – both at airports and sea docks – business and e-crime, and operations such as Strathclyde’s Rubicon, which is looking into phone hacking.
In the longer term, police also hope to create a specialist rape team within the SCD.
Senior officers will be based at the crime campus in Gartcosh, which is still being built, but other officers will be spread out across Scotland.
Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, who has been leading on its formation, said: “It’s about making sure that right across the country, wherever harm is realised, there’s a professional service deployed.
“It will be flexible. We will be able to move people very quickly, but it will also be financially efficient. It will also be part of local policing. The relationship between that and the directorate is crucial.”
The directorate will be designed to boost the capacity of small areas. Locally based SCD detectives will generally deal with major crimes in their area, but if they suffer a spate of them, back up from other parts of Scotland will also be close at hand and able to respond quickly with national resources.
“If you get those critical first hours and days right, that will always help to ensure that justice is done,” Mr Livingstone said.
And the shape and responsibilities of the directorate highlights the importance of border control in the fight against new and emerging threats, such as counter-terrorism.
“It’s so important,” he said. “We feel that whether it’s terrorism, child trafficking, serious and organised crime, counterfeit money coming in, that [quick response] has to be part of it.”
In his speech to the last Acpos conference, taking place in Dunblane, Mr Smith acknowledged the challenges facing the police.
“There will be changes, there has to be changes,” he said. “The savings require fundamental changes.
“We will need to have less people in the organisation, we are committed to doing that through no compulsory redundancies.”
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has warned the country’s most senior police officers that they may face more cuts even after reforming from eight forces to one.
He warned that the crisis facing the Eurozone, and in particular, the threat of Greece leaving the currency union, could have repercussions for Scottish policing budgets. “We’ve not seen nothing yet if that happens,” he said.