• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The police force has to be properly policed

The creation of a single police force was always a hugely controversial policy.

Having territorial forces, overseen by local authority boards, was a system that worked well and had democratic accountability at its heart.

In order to make savings, the old constabularies and boards were scrapped and made way for a national force. Fifteen months into the new regime, the original fears appear to have been well-founded.

For nearly 30 years, Edinburgh tolerated prostitution by granting public entertainment licences to saunas that effectively acted as brothels. The system was far from perfect, but arguably kept the women involved safe.

Police Scotland's raids last year shattered a system that had functioned with the support of the local council and the old Lothian and Borders force.

On stop and search, the advent of Police Scotland meant the Strathclyde's "tackety boot" mentality to the controversial power was rolled out nationally. Fife, for instance, witnessed an increase of more than 400% in the number of stop searches carried out compared to the previous year. The dubious practice of "consensual" searches of children, which have no statutory basis, have also been accelerated by the single force. And finally, specialist officers are now routinely armed across the country.

All three decisions have a common denominator: a lack of checks and balances and accountability.

Police powers should be set out in statute by Parliament. The power to search an individual should be laid down in statute. There should be no "consensual" searches. On armed police, MSPs and the Government should be fully in the loop before such a decision is made.

A counter argument is the Scottish Police Authority, set up to scrutinise the single force, is the appropriate body in this regard.

However, as our revelations today show, the SPA's review into stop and search mysteriously left out the damning testimony of police officers. The jury is out on the SPA's own fitness for the job. The Parliament should instigate an inquiry into the democratic deficit at the heart of the new policing regime and urgently review the mechanisms for genuine accountability.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

245424