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Holyrood must act to clarify powers and responsibilities of police chiefs

I was puzzled by your report "Police chiefs told: Resolve your turf war" (January 7).

The issue seems, on the face of it, a simple one – the new chief constable Stephen House feels his responsibility and accountability for policing Scotland would be difficult, if not untenable, if his financial resources and civilian personnel are essentially the responsibility of someone else: Vic Emery (chairman of the Scottish Police Authority).

My difficulty lies with the apparent attitude of Kenny MacAskill the Justice Secretary and First Minister Alex Salmond, both of whom appear to take the view there is no such structural issue in managing the new service and both parties should just get on with it.

I have every sympathy with the suggestion by Mr House that the legislation needs another look. It is clear to me this ambiguity in roles was originally designed to stop any chief constable having too much power.

While I agree broadly with that principle I feel it was not thought through in terms of what boundaries could then be reasonably expected.

Section 17 (1) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland ) Act 2012 ( part 2) makes it quite clear where the buck stops. It states: "The chief constable is responsible, and must account to the Authority, for the policing of Scotland". No pressure then?

What the term "responsible" means in practice is, I believe, that when both Mr House and Mr Emery are regularly called to account for such things as solved crime statistics and effective use of resources, both will be able to point the finger of suspicion at the other one in arguing their case.

If Holyrood doesn't act soon to clarify limits of powers and responsibilities I fear we will be left with a wound which will frequently re-open in years to come.

Bill Brown,

46 Breadie Drive, Milngavie.

Contextual targeting label: 
Finance

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