Comment: Single force cannot be law unto itself

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the first anniversary of the creation of Police Scotland is an obvious time to reflect on what this momentous change has meant for us in the Capital.

The scrapping of the old Lothian and Borders force and its seven counterparts was always going to mean things would be done differently, but the sweeping nature of the changes has taken many by surprise, including those in charge of other services which are supposed to work with the police.

Change, of course, can be good. The main reasons for creating the new single force in the first place were delivering efficiency savings and promoting best practice, both of which mean doing things differently. The new focus brought by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has delivered some notable success, particularly on violent and sex crime. The fact nearly two-thirds of rape complaints are now solved is an impressive and welcome improvement.

Yet other developments will trouble many residents. The huge rise in housebreaking – and big fall in the number of perpetrators being caught – will have caused the most upset. It is not just the material loss, but the mental anguish caused, that has to be considered when counting the cost. Police Scotland has now presided over a dramatic swing away from targeting housebreakers and a dramatic swing back again.

Meanwhile, police station counters have been closed across the region, on the back of vague assurances of delivering greater efficiency. And confusion still reigns over the force’s attitude towards sex for sale saunas as it insists “nothing has changed” despite a series of high-profile raids.

We strongly support efficiency savings which don’t damage services. But priorities of the new force need to be better thought out and better communicated. Where there is opposition, arguments have to be made, and won or lost. Without that, there is no democratic control, and Police Scotland is simply a law unto itself.