Martin Hannan: Confidence key to good policing

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Who guards the guards? I have asked that question before when I made clear my serious misgivings 
about the formation of a national 
police force.

Who guards the guards? I have asked that question before when I made clear my serious misgivings 
about the formation of a national 
police force.

Recently I have heard the force referred to as Policestate Scotland and Police Strathland, the latter a reference to Chief Constable Stephen House’s apparent predilection for all things Strathclyde where he used to be the top cop. As it happens, I don’t think we are quite a police state yet, and while I know there are officers who do not like the ways of working that House is introducing across Scotland, I am willing to accept that may be as much to do with them having to buck up their ideas.

Even when I was convener of the Edinburgh East SNP constituency – oh, look, a journalist that admits his party adherence! – I told our MSP that I wasn’t happy with the loss of local control and scrutiny that would come with the national force. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – for it was he – did his best to convince me that the Scottish Police Authority would do a decent job of replacing local police boards.

I went along with it on the “suck it and see” basis, but in the past few days I have to say my mouth has a bitter taste in it. Kenny is no longer in the justice job but I would be willing to bet that he, too, would not have liked the events of the last week.

Latterly we had the story of the chairman of the SPA, Vic Emery, claiming expenses and allowances for attending the funeral of those officers killed in the Clutha Bar helicopter disaster. How utterly disgraceful of him – Emery should resign immediately. Before that, and much more seriously, we had the SPA’s report into the controversy over routine arming of police on our streets, a greywash of a report which never really got to the nub of the matter, no doubt because Police Scotland effectively delayed its publication.

This is how independent MSP John Finnie viewed the matter as reported by the Highland News: “It’s been clear throughout that Police Scotland displayed real arrogance by providing minimal information on this significant change on arming to the SPA . . . 
In turn the SPA failed the public by failing to give the matter the appropriate scrutiny.”

In the same newspaper, SPA 
member Iain Whyte, who chaired the scrutiny inquiry, said: “This was carried out as part of the SPA’s scrutiny role and supports our aim of driving continuous improvement in policing.

“The issues raised around armed officers have also generated public questions about the effectiveness of accountability and governance.

“Our conclusion is that a clear accountability framework for policing with the appropriate statutory authority is in place.

“What can be improved is public awareness and understanding of that framework, and an early priority should be for SPA and Police Scotland to set out clearly and publicly how that operates in practice.”

I could not have put it better myself. Time for Police Scotland and the SPA to remember that retaining public confidence is the essence of good policing.

Next week: Education Scotland and how it is failing the two most important groups of people in the schools system – the pupils and their teachers.

Left in a spin by Labour claims

By now you will have read the Gordon Brown-Jim Murphy “spin” on more powers for the Holyrood parliament if Labour gets elected in Westminster in May, as if anybody can believe a word these two utter. All I will say is that the chances of the former are the same as the chances of the latter. None and less than none.

Cyclists rail against trams

So 60 cyclists are to sue the council over accidents attributed to trams and tram tracks? Perhaps those looking into the matter should be asking why English trams don’t cause the same problems.

Cowards have got off lightly

Our thanks as a community must go to the Mortonhall parents for their fight for justice. When you think of all those babies whose ashes were anonymously disposed of, you wonder how they kept their dignity and courage in the face of such vast personal loss compounded by bureaucratic indifference.

A few eejits, a very few, have queried the payout of a total of £600,000 to the parents. For what it’s worth, I think the city council got off very lightly. And I notice that, once again, Sue Bruce fronted the PR operation because our councillors are cowards.

Facing full horror about legal highs

I have also said that Police Scotland’s image will be down to individual officers doing their job well. One cop who has impressed me in recent days is Superintendent Matt Richards who spoke at the health and social care committee last week.

His analysis of the huge problems facing Edinburgh as a result of New Psychocative Substances (NPS), or “legal highs” as they are known, was devastatingly succinct and honest.

In effect he was saying that this city faces a massive challenge from the use of NPS both by first-timers and seasoned drug injectors, because their behaviour becomes out of all control.

I don’t know about the councillors, and they certainly looked shocked, but he scared the living daylights out of me.