Comment: Police authority has a lot of work to do to retain public trust

The growing financial disarray at Police Scotland will raise deep concern across the country.

Thursday, 26th January 2017, 5:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th January 2017, 5:10 pm
Police Scotland are facing a £200m funding gap

The public will be worried that the progress which officers in Edinburgh have been making - particularly in tackling housebreaking and yobs racing stolen motorbikes in the north of the city - will be stopped in its tracks. Officers themselves will be anxious about what it will mean for them, their ability to do their job and the extra pressure which it might put upon them.

The £200 million funding gap which the force is facing over the next four years is a significant one. That is the same cost as employing around 100 officers over that time.

The theory will be that savings can be made by creating efficiencies in backroom services, such as pay roll and IT, thereby protecting the jobs of frontline officers.

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This was always the reason d’etre for the national force, but its track record in delivering those savings since it was created four years ago has been far from impressive.

The Scottish Government has pointed the finger at Westminster by suggesting that the imposition of VAT on Police Scotland is a root cause of the deepening problems. That, however, only serves to muddy the waters in this instance.

Billing the police for VAT does seem to be a ridiculous example of public agencies shuffling money from one organisation to another.

This however was known about before our regional constabularies were merged and so should have been accounted for within the budget for the national force since its inception in 2014.

The sense of an impending crisis is not helped by the Scottish Police Authority - which was set up to oversee Police Scotland - deciding to hold most of its meetings in private.

In order to reassure the public they need to start spelling out their vision of where the force is heading and how they are going to get there.