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Deal struck on control of police staff

A DEAL has been reached between Scotland's two most senior police figures over who will control civilian staff in the new nationwide force following intervention from Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.

Vic Emery, chairman of the Scottish Police Authority, said yesterday control of some of his staff will pass to Stephen House, chief constable of the new single Police Service of Scotland, ending a turf war that had seen both sides take legal advice on what powers they had been granted by the Scottish Government.

Mr House had previously said being deprived of his own staff was a "gobsmacking major problem", while the stand-off had been described as a shambles by Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, a former senior police officer.

It had threatened to derail the setting up of the national force, ahead of the April 1 deadline.

However, Mr Emery revealed yesterday at a public meeting of the SPA that some human resources and finance staff will be placed under Mr House's control.

He said: "The Cabinet Secretary has asked the board to ensure the chief constable has the support of some police staff who will assist him in fulfilling the requirements of the Act [of Parliament] conferred upon him.

"It is the Scottish Government's view that, under the Act, this is needed to allow the Chief Constable to perform his administrative responsibilities effectively.

"Although I would have preferred this input to have come a lot earlier, my suggestion is that we agree to this request."

More work will now be needed to thrash out the specifics, although the way is now clear for staff to be rapidly put in place.

Mr House told the meeting he welcomed the Scottish Government's intervention.

He said: "I would echo what [Mr Emery] said that it would have been useful if it came much, much earlier in this debate and they made clear that was their view early on."

He said he was content with the new arrangement, even though he believes "the principle is not one I said is best suited to running the police service".

Speaking after the meeting, he said: "Police forces are used to having HR and finance report to the chief constable. That's the way the model works, and the model does work.

More details of the new force's structure emerged during the meeting. According to Mr House, the 14 divisional commanders are already in place, although a formal transfer to their new roles has not yet taken place.

The Greater Glasgow Division will have around 3000 police officers and 400 detectives alone.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the meeting was positive, and that he welcomed the agreement on the issue of corporate functions.

Labour's Graeme Pearson called for more clarity on how the new structure would work, but said the agreement was common sense at last.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "The whole idea behind a Scotland-wide police service was to reduce duplicity [sic], yet one of the first major hurdles is jumped by more doubling up."

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