Martin Hannan: Time we nicked force HQ for us

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Forgive me if I am way off beam, but the last time I checked, the city of Edinburgh was the capital of Scotland.

Around the world, most capital cities tend to house the major headquarters of the big institutions that make up what might be termed the establishment of a country. Capital cities are defined by the fact that the seats of government are located in them, and mayors and councils of capital cities tend to jealously guard those headquarters and head offices which are sited near the seat of national government.

Now, as a good SNP member, I am well aware that Scotland does not yet have a fully independent parliament, but for some time – indeed, several centuries – Edinburgh has been acknowledged as the capital of Scotland because it used to house the Scottish Parliament in that grand building off the High Street, and now has a new parliament in a very expensive 
building at Holyrood.

There was a suggestion in the run-up to devolution that the new parliament might be located in Glasgow.

This was a red herring usually put about by members of the Labour Party in that city. It was never a serious proposition that the parliament would go west, and Edinburgh 
remains the seat of the Scottish Government, such as it is, and therefore the capital of Scotland.

Yet there are people who do not really understand what a capital city is all about and unfortunately some of them appear to be running 
Edinburgh at the moment. For I am completely mystified by the lack of clamour for the new national police force headquarters to be based here.

I have expressed my misgivings about the national force before, but have been reassured that there will still be sufficient localised input into the democratic control of our police. But if we are going to have a national force, and the project is too far gone now to be recalled, then for the life of me I cannot see why its head 
office should be anywhere other than 
Edinburgh.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill appears to have made it clear that he wants the national force to be based at Tulliallan in west Fife, where the Scottish Police College is located. I never like to disagree with Mr 
MacAskill, but I think he’s wrong and that Edinburgh should be the location for the headquarters.

There has been a suggestion – dismissed outright by most sensible people – that Perth should get the head office, while most of Scotland’s top police officers favour Glasgow as the base.

It is surely not a coincidence that Strathclyde Police under Chief Constable Stephen House has been looking to establish a new headquarters for many years, not least because the present building at Pitt Street is no longer fit for purpose.

They argue, not unreasonably, that the Strathclyde move to new 
premises is the ideal occasion for setting up a brand spanking new headquarters for the national force and, of course, Mr House is the boss of the new national police force.

Let’s face it, even Glasgow’s biggest fans could not deny that the city would be the only choice for the national base if the criterion was simply where the most crime is committed. We absolutely have our own criminal problems here in Edinburgh, but we are not yet quite so far up the scale of criminality as Strathclyde.

The policing of Scotland should be above such local concerns, however, so why am I against the location of the national force headquarters in either Strathclyde or Tulliallan?

Tulliallan is a nice place, I am assured, and will be easily and relatively cheaply converted into a proper headquarters. And after all, this whole exercise of creating a national force is about saving money, isn’t 
it?

It is argued that building the national headquarters in Glasgow also saves money because it can double as a new base for the police in Strathclyde. Yet the whole point about this new force is that it is the national police service of Scotland. It seems almost ludicrous to me that the national headquarters should be based on a Glasgow industrial estate or some backwoods location in Fife.

The Scottish Parliament, the Scottish courts, the Scottish civil service, 
the Lord Advocate and the 
office of the Justice Secretary are all based here in Edinburgh, so why should the national police force be different?

You may see this as a matter of me fearing that Edinburgh will somehow lose its prestige, and you would be right, but to me it is more a matter of 
practicality – the national police leadership must be based near the seat of government, if only to save money. Think of all the civil service mileage being run up on trips to Glasgow and Fife and you’ll see what I mean.

Again to save money, the Fettes HQ of Lothian and Borders Police could easily be extended or amended to form a new national police base.

Edinburgh as the location for the new national headquarters makes sense, much more sense than Tulliallan and Glasgow, and it would indeed show that this truly is a capital city. Yet I hear none of our civic leaders loudly and consistently arguing for the HQ to come here.

Frankly, that is a dereliction of their duty to promote Edinburgh.