Margo MacDonald: Police can’t be left flat-footed

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House needs to heed message on local policing. Picture: Robert Perry
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House needs to heed message on local policing. Picture: Robert Perry
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What has happened to the police? The idea is that we should like them . . . not laugh at them or despair of them. A huge amount of public relations budget is spent by Police Scotland on “getting to know you” events, and this weekend will be no different.

Bobbies will be where the action is, be it at Easter Road or Tynecastle, the Meadows or the Gardens. The familiar and reassuring presence of the officers in blue is part and parcel of our civic community.

One of the priceless aspects of the persona of our police men and women is their sheer approachability. Compare that with the instinctive body swerve executed by a fair number of visitors to Portugal when they encounter the guardians of the Portuguese peace in the places visited by them. I’ve usually taken it for granted that if, and when, I needed help or directions or any other bit of information I could ask a copper. The feeling deserts me if I have to approach the Portuguese counterpart.

Whether Chief Constable Sir Stephen House likes it or not, I’m sure my attitude is shared by many people. He would find it impossible to do his job properly without the co-operation of the community. So, why does he think it makes sense to put a barrier (ie, distance) between his officers and me and my neighbours by threatening to lock the doors of the public counters where part of the trust I’ve described is played out.

I fully accept the police statement that the contact points are not busy enough to justify using valuable resources on them. But the only requirement is for a counter, perhaps a seat, a bell and enough police officers in the station to answer the call for attention from the public counter. This will help them as much as they will help members of the public to achieve a sense of sharing responsibility for the quality of communal life in their area.

Everyone is appreciative that the annual crime figures are showing a reduction. Some of this results from the good intelligence gleaned from informal conversations between local police and the people who come into the station to report thefts, strangers hanging about empty houses and the like.

If the statements from Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, below, and Chief Constable House are to mean anything then this is an action that will allow them to reclaim some of the respect they lost recently.

They should put right the ground they lost when they ditched their commitment to this example of local policing to save a paltry amount of money when seen against the total cost of policing.

They still have time to reflect on their claims that they wanted policing to be a partnership between themselves and the community. If one of the partners is obviously unhappy, then let the community concerned meet the local police to hammer out a plan that leaves everyone confident that locally made decisions are best for certain functions.

It should be an instruction that stations with public counters must operate this service as cheaply as possible. Also, during the hours the local coppers’ counter is closed, calls should not be routed to an exchange with no knowledge of the locality.

Gaddafi’s oil lapdog should shut his yap

THERE was a time when Opec (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries), speaking through its super-smooth, highly intelligent, western- educated Saudi spokesman Sheik Yamani, could dictate much of the movements of currencies. His speeches determined how many gold bars and South African Krugerands were stuffed into bank vaults or under the bed.

Opec was unchallenged, but those days are gone – China, Canada, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, the US, and the UK are not members and are getting along fine.

So, who is this current secretary-general of Opec to warn Scots against voting to become sovereign and, taking control over our natural resources including oil and gas. Well, he’s no Sheik Yamani. He has the distinctly iffy experience of being Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s oil minister. It would not be unfair to assume that Abdalla Salem el-Badri’s experience of helping to build and then organising a democratically decided oil policy to be a bit limited.

What a cheek this chancer has to tell the Scots who’ve been responsible for running a democratic show that they should not aspire to independence. Still, it’s not all that long ago that I reminded readers that we should expect foreign luminaries with no interest in Scotland to urge us to vote for the union . . . in this case we should ignore him.

If this secretary-general of Opec is infused with the desire to put right some of the unfairnesses that have arisen from the greed of some oil producers, why is he staying right out of where the action is? Australia is a comfy hideaway.