Danny Alexander speaks out about use of police horses in Inverness

As a native of the peaceable Highland capital, I was quite shocked to see the words “police horses” and “Inverness” in the same sentence. Why on earth would there be any need to employ such an expensive resource, normally associated with serious trouble? It’s not as if they were even taken from a stable down the road. The animals were transported 200 miles from Ayrshire for a pre-Christmas show of police strength. They were even used to police the Inverness Caledonian Thistle game on the Saturday afternoon. I cannot imagine, as someone who goes to Caley games when I can, how that would ever have been necessary or appropriate.

Inverness has managed perfectly well without anti-riot measures up until now. I’ve never felt unsafe there. The presence of mounted police would do more to make me feel threatened than anything else I’ve encountered.  It’s also quite insulting that such an expensive tactic was used at a time when local control room closures, with resulting job losses,  were imminent.

Danny Alexander, who’s the local MP, has now written to the Scottish Justice Secretary about this. He said:

While the SNP are overseeing the closures control rooms and community front desks across north, the additional cost of mounted police is unjustifiable.

I am sure that this measure does a great deal of good in some other parts of Scotland, but it is wholly unnecessary here in the Highlands. It is yet another example of the failures of a centralised police force. These ranks would be better used to support community policing across the Highlands.

I would be very much like to hear whether Mr MacAskill agree with Police Scotland that mounted police are needed in the Highlands.

This shows up yet another problems with the centralisation of Scotland’s police force. I recently wrote about how decades of  successful local policy towards Edinburgh saunas had been overturned almost as soon as the newly merged police force came into being.

It seems very much to be the old Strathclyde’s way or no way at all. That’s a huge mistake. Policing needs in Glasgow are totally different from policing needs in the Highlands and Islands. What next? Tasers in Achiltibuie?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • What next? Tasers in Achiltibuie?

    I have only stayed the night in Inverness once. We had come from Fort William on our way to see friends in Aberdeen . We were near the football ground mentioned in Caron’s piece. That may be a coincidence. The person responsible for emptying two cartons of Indian carry-out onthe windscreen and all over the front of the car may have had nothing to do with football. It may have been an entirely spontaneous reaction to seeing a car with an English number plate. It may have been a job-creation effort by the local car wash. Theyadmittedly provided anexcellent service and removed all visible trace of the meal from the surface of the car. There was a faint aroma of curry for some weeks after, but it would have been churlish to complain.
    So my experience of Inverness and the local crime rate may be different from Caron’s. It just shows what you can do with crime statistics. I can honestly say that there has been an incident of mindless vandalism whenever I have stayed in Inverness and therefore the presence of police horses should be welcomed by all honest citizens.
    What has Danny Alexander got to fear, unless he has a tendency to be over generous with his curry sauce?

  • Peter Andrews 19th Feb '14 - 6:06pm

    So police horses prevent mindless spontaneous acts of vandalism now do they? I think not

  • Last time I was in Inverness a Norwegian tallship was in port. The presence of tall, blonde sailing type youths n the local hostelries had a catastrophic impact on disorder figures as local youths “defended their patch’ – or more likely the challenge to their pulling opportunities. Not that police horses would have helped!

    Seriously though it does seem an over-reaction to ship I horses!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Feb '14 - 8:45pm

    Heavens, John. What an awful experience. How long ago was this? I don’t think there are any Indian take-aways near the new stadium which is at the end of the Kessock Bridge.

    What a waste of good curry, too. Truly bizarre. I apologise to you on behalf of all Invernessians for that. I’m not sure a police horse would have helped in that situation, though.

  • Caron, it was 2003 and the rest of the visit was fine. No need to apologise. You are probably right about the horses, unless of course they had a taste for curry sauce.

  • Paul In Twickenham 19th Feb '14 - 9:18pm

    I went to a wedding in Inverness ( you were there too, Caron, remember?) and while we were there my partner and I went to a game between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County (a local derby, apparently), as I like to “collect” football grounds on my travels. Given the er… “Bracing” breeze on the bridge and around the stadium, I should think that only dedicated football supporters ever venture there, so mounted police would certainly seem excessive.

  • The police horses were probably sent to Inverness because there was not likely to be trouble and to practise deploying riders and horses!

    Where I used to live we regularly had police horses come round, not because our area needed them, but because it enabled both riders and horses to learn the job. Feel threatened, never even when at Wembley!

    Now if you were talking about ranks of mounted police – like we saw at times during the miners strike … that is quite different.

  • Peter Chegwyn 20th Feb '14 - 2:01am

    Maybe the police horses are needed to protect Danny Alexander?

  • A Social Liberal 20th Feb '14 - 7:59am

    I don’t see the problem, to be honest.

    I am not a huge footie fan where my interest in the game is all encompassing, but I have been to all sorts of games in all sorts of divisions and in nearly all of them there were policemen on horseback.

    It may have been different if the policemen concerned were trying to re-enact the Peterloo Massacre, but kicking up a fuss over this?

  • Stuart Mitchell 20th Feb '14 - 10:14am

    “The presence of mounted police would do more to make me feel threatened than anything else I’ve encountered.”

    Horses are not scary. If you look at the photo accompanying the Highland News article, you’ll see that there are a bunch of children happily stroking the horse. Police horses are a common sight where I live and most people seem delighted to see them. Obviously a “riot control” situation would be different, but that’s not what was happening here.

  • Peterloo atrocity was carried out by the military, before the days of a civilian police force. Today’s police have many horses especially the Met. They train them down the road from Kingston at Ember Park. They also provided spare horses to the former Editor of the News of The World so that she can go riding with David Cameron, or will I get in trouble for reminding people of this ? Perhaps Tony Blair that famous advisor on ‘reputation management’ will phone me with a few kind words about police horses?

  • Mason Cartwright 20th Feb '14 - 2:03pm

    Well I actually have a police horseshoe in a plaque entitled “Blackie who tried to bite the queen” courtesy of my dead father who was a policeman for 35 years.

    He would be appalled at even the suggestion of police horses in Inverness.

    I have spent a lot of time in Inverness and can say that whilst the atmosphere at the weekends can appear (to those feint of heart) a little carnivorous at the weekends etc it is all bark and no bite.

    Trust me I know about these things having escaped a very bad set of circumstances as a young lad via university.

    Ooops that option largely no longer exists any more of course courtesy of the Lib Dems.

    I was one of the lucky ones few but will follow behind me now.

  • Mason Cartwright 20th Feb '14 - 2:12pm

    Faint of heart even 🙂

  • Mason Cartwright 20th Feb '14 - 2:46pm

    When I was a young lad I also asked him if the Police should be armed. He said to me earnestly:

    “I worry about most of my colleagues having a truncheon never mind a gun. Please promise me you will never join the police for I know what it turns people into”

    That’s a pretty fair paraphrase.

    I never have and never would as a result of that because he said it when he was dying of cancer in a hospital bed and I was 15 years old.

    Perhaps we should ask the families of Hillsborough what they think about my fathers words and the police in general these days.

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