Liberal Democrat position on Police merger vindicated by Scottish think tank

The Lib Dems have form for calling things right – the Iraq War, the Credit Crunch, Mystic Clegg’s account of what would happen post Brexit vote. We also said from the beginning that merging Scotland’s eight police forces into one was a disaster waiting to happen. So it has been proven in many ways from routine arming of Police in the Highlands to the failures related to the M9 crash where two people died after being left for 3 days, to the closing down of saunas in Edinburgh, ruining years of a system that worked.

Now think tank Reform Scotland has published a report that vindicates the Lib Dem position and supports the measures for reintroduction of local accountability that we called for in our Scottish Parliament election manifesto. Its research director said:

However we remain concerned that, under the current centralised structure, there is no obvious way to actually make localism happen.

For that reason, we have proposed that both the funding and governance structure must change. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and on that principle we believe that local authorities should again be responsible for funding 50% of policing, with the Scottish Government continuing to fund the other 50%.

Furthermore, we believe that each local authority should be able to nominate a member of the Scottish Police Authority to ensure that local priorities are adequately represented.

The creation of Police Scotland was a mistake, and in the absence of any further wholesale reform we all have a responsibility to make the smaller changes which can help re-create local policing.

Liam McArthur, Scottish Lib Dem Justice spokesperson said:


Reform Scotland were right to warn of the impact that centralising the police would have on localism and they are right that the current structure of Police Scotland makes it hugely difficult for officers to ensure that services reflect local needs. Officers, civilian staff and communities alike have been left counting the cost of these botched reforms.

The SNP were warned time and again that centralising the police would damage local policing but they did not listen. There is an urgent need to put democracy back into policing and boosting the role of councils in shaping local policing plans would be a sensible step in the right direction.

Whether the SNP Government will listen or not remains to be seen.

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  • Over the 5 years that the Liberal Democrats were in power, police numbers in England and Wales fell by 17,000, about 10% of their total strength despite a manifesto promise to increase them.

    Over the same period in Scotland, police numbers fell by only 100, less than 1% of total strength despite vicious cuts being handed down from Westminster.

    The Scottish Government maintained the local service while the Lib Dem Tory coalition elsewhere were closing local police offices. They did it by instead cutting senior managers and rationalising duplicated support rather than cutting front line services.

    If the Liberal Democrats want to impose 8 lots of senior managers and all that goes with it, they need to come clean and say how many police officers they would cut and which local offices they would close to pay for all the additional bureaucracy that they want.

  • Police in the Highlands were never “routinely armed” and it is highly misleading to keep on repeating this.

  • John Mitchell 27th Jul '16 - 5:45pm

    I 100% agree in that the creation of Police Scotland was a mistake. I also see today that the Scottish government is set to close control centres north of Dundee for the fire service. The SNP are clearly as keen as ever on their centralising strategy.

    I believe Scotland needs at least three police forces to take into account its geographic and regional differences. Glasgow policing does not work for the entire country. The Liberal Democrats should continue to support maintaining a local link and explore all options, including operating policing on a regional basis or with regional forces.

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