Single Scots police force ‘to be kept free from politics’

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JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill today pledged there would be no political interference in a revamped single Scottish police force.

He said democratic accountability would be at the heart of the Scottish Government’s policing reforms, but acknowledged “concerns” had been raised about a single force.

He told an international summit on policing hosted by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh that reforms were needed to maintain public services in the face of Westminster spending cuts.

Mr MacAskill is expected to confirm the scrapping of the current eight police forces and the creation of a single Scottish police service after the Scottish Parliament returns from its summer recess next month.

He told today’s gathering at Edinburgh University’s Pollock Halls: “Our police forces are performing well. Crime is at a 32-year low, helped by the 1000 extra officers we have put into communities.

“Confidence in the police is at an all-time high. We need to protect those gains and safeguard the excellent reputation our police deservedly enjoy.”

He said Scotland’s public sector needed to reform to meet the demands of the challenging financial climate and to maintain and improve public services for communities despite substantial Westminster budget cuts.

“If we do not embrace public sector reform, then we risk allowing our public services to fail.”

During the summer, Mr MacAskill has been meeting police in every force area.

He said: “In the consultation and in the dialogue I have been having with stakeholders over the summer, concerns were raised about national governance, particularly in a single service.

“People value a police service that can exercise its duties on law enforcement free from political interference and rightly so. It’s a cornerstone of the police service in Scotland and should be protected.

“But people also rightly emphasise the importance of democratic accountability. We need to get the balance right. That balance is achieved in many other countries.”

A draft business case for a single Scottish force suggests it would cost around £207 million to deliver over five years but save £390m in the same period and go on to save £1.9 billion over 15 years.

Labour and the Tories back a single police force, as does the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.

The move is opposed by the Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, the Liberal Democrats and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

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