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Police looking to keep senior officer training north of Border

POLICE Scotland is planning to train its own leaders for the first time.

The new national force, like its predecessors, is largely led by senior officers who have undergone an exacting course aimed at forces UK-wide.

However, it is understood there is now growing movement for anyone with ambitions to be chief constable or one of the chief's deputies or assistants to undergo specialist preparation north of the Border.

Force insiders say such a move - using Tulliallan in Fife rather than the UK policing college in Bramshill, Hampshire - would both mark and foster growing cultural differences between policing in Scotland and England.

Officials, however, said plans were embryonic, despite widespread discussion within the force and its partner agencies and watchdogs.

John Gillies, Police Scotland Director of People and Development said: "We are currently involved in discussions with the Scottish Government, Scottish Police Authority, staff representatives and colleagues in other forces about the future direction of travel in relation to the assessment, selection and development of chief officers for Police Scotland with those discussions at an early stage at this point in time."

Scottish officers have long been proud of their distinct - and many argue superior - policing culture.

But most leaders, who are responsible for maintaining and creating that culture, undergo their final strategic training at Bramshill, at a course heavily influenced by Sir Stephen House, Scotland's chief constable.

Officially they need this or an "equivalent qualification" to do the job. One Scottish chief officer was trained on an equivalent scheme in Ireland and the rest went through Bramshill. There is currently no similar course in Scotland.

Some chief superintendents - the rank that would take the training course - have concerns about a Scottish-only qualification, fearing it would not be recognised by forces in the rest of the UK if they seek promotion outside Scotland. Many officers fail Bramshill, indicating that qualifying is exacting.

Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), wants to make sure that a Scottish course would be just as prestigious. ASPS is keen to enter into discussions about the relevance of the current process in Scotland and examine any proposed alternatives that may better suit Scotland's needs.

"That said, we are content that the current process is producing high-calibre candidates to meet the pool of vacancies in Scotland at present," said Mr Rennie

"From our point of view, our members' ability to apply for vacancies outwith Scotland needs to be protected but most importantly the independent assessment element of the process must be preserved'.

Graeme Pearson, Labour's justice spokesman in the Scottish Parliament and a graduate of Bramshill who was later director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, stressed there were real advantages to a UK-wide scheme.

He said: "The training of our command team officers is vital to the maintenance a police service we can be proud of.

"I look forward to seeing the options for such training at Police Scotland later in the year. I believe it important for our senior officers to be given the opportunity to perform alongside their colleagues in the rest of the UK.

"Such training builds professional relationships and a means of benchmarking our officers.

"Any proposed Scottish command course seems to me too narrow an approach to command issues that are experienced internationally."

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