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We must not allow politicians to take control of single police force

I HAVE written before of the danger of Scotland becoming a banana republic and the building blocks for a police state being surreptitiously cemented into place.

It continues.

Last week we had the Association of Police Superintendents not asking for increased powers to search without warrant, but demanding such powers ("Police demand greater powers to search homes", The Herald, November 2). And I believe that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will almost certainly give them their way.

We see in The Herald today that a major row is breaking out between the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Stephen House, Chief Constable-designate of what will be Scotland's only police force ("New police force in turf war over backroom staff", The Herald November 9). At the end of the day, what they're fighting about is who, effectively, is going to be in operational control of the police. The chief constable? SPA chairman Vic Emery? I think not, but Mr MacAskill will assuredly provide the answer – his answer.

Concerns were expressed ahead of the creation of the single police force that no democratic society should allow it as it could result in the chief constable becoming the stooge of Messrs Salmond and MacAskill.

We're getting there.

Jock Thomson QC,

Mackinnon Advocates,

High Court, Glasgow.

IT has not taken long for the first of what is likely to be many disputes between the new Scottish Police Service and the Scottish Police Authority, and as one who is concerned about the viability of a national police force it is no surprise that the bureaucrats appear to be meddling already.

Stephen House is apparently "spitting nails" at proposals emerging from the SPA and quite rightly so. However, I must say that he and many of the recent chief officers must share the blame for such a situation arising. For too long they have been cosying up with politicians of varying hue for whatever reason rather than maintain the separation from politics which ensures impartiality in police operations.

There was a time when chief constables dealt with politicians at arms' length and that allowed them a certain amount of autonomy to carry out the legal obligations of the police service to serve and protect the public. I am certain that there are many who believe that gave chief constables too much power, but that is open to debate.

In past times interference in operational matters was something that politicians seldom considered, but in last the 20-30 years as the result of political pressure and weak chief officers the ability of chief constables to effectively carry out their responsibilities has been diminished through political attitudes towards the police fostered by politicians and others.

I hope that the current "problems" can be resolved before the Scottish Police Service assumes responsibility for the nation next year and that the various police associations get behind Stephen House to ensure that politicians are prepared to provide the means for the Scottish Police Service to succeed with minimal interference.

John M Wilson,

Police House, Main Street, Houston,

THE reported spat between Stephen House and the SPA chairman over the control of backroom staff seems to confirm our worst fears, namely that more political control will be exerted over policing. For generations, the chief constable has had operational control of his staff, both frontline and support and to depart from this arrangement is a worrying prospect. If the body set up to scrutinise the force, namely the Scottish Police Authority, has control over support staff, who is to scrutinise the SPA's handling of this function? It's hard to believe that the SPA would embark on restricting the operational integrity of the chief constable without the nod from ministers.

Bob MacDougall,

Oxhill, Kippen.

The Chief Constable of the new Scottish Police Service must have operational control of all the associated services currently available to the present police forces, subject to proper scrutiny. To have any faith in the SPA, members of the public will require to know that any complaints they may have with regards to the new force will be rigorously examined by a totally independent body which does not, itself, control and run any of the police support functions suggested by Mr Emery.

Jim Miller (Chief Inspector, Retired)

29 Westview Terrace, Dunlop.

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