Helen Martin: The thin blue line is about to be breached
CURRENTLY there are more than 600 people in Scottish communities who have to be monitored by the police because they pose a risk to women and children.
Some are convicted sex offenders who, despite being highly likely to re-offend within weeks or months, have been let out of jail. Some are individuals the police know are a threat but have so far not been able to successfully prosecute.
And of course, there are paedophiles known and unknown who confine their perversions to online images regardless of the suffering endured by the children pictured.
We are facing an increase in terrorist attacks requiring extensive work by police and intelligence agencies to protect us.
Frauds, identity theft and scams are soaring with a significant proportion down to technology and the internet, let alone the dwindling morality of clever cyber crooks.
Drug-smuggling, lethal fake imports and sales including cigarettes and booze to electrical goods and dangerous toys, it’s all on the up, along with people trafficking, 21st century slavery and who knows how many other modern offences which have yet to come to light.
All that and more comes on top of “traditional” crime encompassing everything from murder, assault, shop-lifting and house-breaking to car theft. Yet we certainly haven’t seen a surge in police recruitment.
Diane Abbott may have got her pre-election sums wrong on her infamous LBC radio interview but at least her gaffe raised the topic of the need for thousands more police officers, and that applies all over the UK. Last year the Scottish Police Federation said the force was “at breaking point”.
Despite claims and promises that police force manpower across the UK has, or will be, increased, anyone who personally knows a rank-and-file police officer will hear a different story.
It would be interesting and enlightening to be told how many officers are routinely on duty in Edinburgh areas on an average Saturday night. But I wouldn’t bet on Police Scotland divulging that information, or even the Scottish Police Federation who may be concerned about the panic such a revelation would cause.
In terms of a visible presence, John Cleese’s herd of wildebeests is probably more likely on the Royal Mile today compared to the days when beat police were a regular, daily feature on most city and suburban streets. CCTV certainly helps but it is no substitute for police patrols.
We live in times of cuts and financial restraints. Almost all public services need massive increases in budget and investment. But surely the two priorities, even greater than education, transport and other major responsibilities, are those on which our very lives and safety depend – the NHS and the police. And whether these are funded by higher taxes, especially on the rich, by at least a temporary government redirection of funds from other, less vital services, or even by borrowing and therefore increasing rather than reducing national debt, we cannot put tight budgets above the protection of the public and the rise in criminality.
If the government cannot prioritise, the police will be forced to do so. That will leave us speculating on the crimes, offences and calls from the public to which their meagre budget will no longer enable them to respond.
Will politicians learn to follow Corbyn’s lead?
IN my lifetime there has never been a general election held in the face of so many threats. Terrorist attacks, Brexit, the economy and – depending on who we each voted for – Independence/the Union, were all on the agenda.
But the worst threat to our democracy and our future was the appalling standard of politics, debate and campaigning, most of which seemed to focus on attacking other parties (particularly the SNP) in a political tribal war, rather than concentrating on policy and winning over the public with intelligent argument.
Politics in this country is now nothing more than a fight for power. Many politicians would scratch their heads wondering “what’s wrong with that?” and muttering “well of course that’s what it’s all about”.
They would claim that winning an election gives them the opportunity to do what they believe is best for the people. Unfortunately, within their own little bubble they no longer listen to the people, or work hard to find out what the electorate wants so they can legitimately represent voters.
Politicians regard themselves as “professionals”, experts in their field, and see the public as ignorant amateurs who cannot understand, analyse, or put forward well-informed criticism or suggestions.
They decide on their own policies, then merely feed us sound-bites, slogans, and try to force us into their camps by spitting out bile and hatred towards their opposition parties.
The notable exception was Jeremy Corbyn – all policy and no bile. Labour’s success was entirely down to him. Will politicians learn from that? Probably not.
Lying bankers don’t build up faith
FOUR of our bank’s branches have closed in succession, allegedly because, according to official letters, customers no longer use them.
In the one remaining branch near our area, we experienced twice in the last week queues snaking out the door and a wait of over half an hour, with customers grumbling, sighing and asking others to hold their place in the queue while they nipped out to feed the parking meter. All banks do the same.
Bare-faced lies don’t build customer faith in financial institutions.