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Row over police plans shift

A LEAKED blueprint outlining original plans for the command structure of the new single Scottish police force reveals there was no vision to transfer control of key functions away from the chief constable.

CHIEF: Stephen House is said to be 'spitting nails' over the move.
CHIEF: Stephen House is said to be 'spitting nails' over the move.

Graeme Pearson, the former director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) and now a Labour MSP for South Scotland and member of Holyrood's Justice Committee, said the document clearly outlined that the chief constable, Stephen House, would have complete command over every aspect of the new force's work.

The document contradicts recent developments – which have caused an outcry within the police – that the management of key corporate services such as human resources, finance and IT will instead come under the control of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the watchdog of the new single force, which is set to launch on April 1.

This led to claims the operational independence of the force will be jeopardised if the body designed to scrutinise it is also acting as an employer.

Mr Pearson said: "On July 9, the police reform group makes it clear there that the chief constable had command and control of the entire footprint of corporate services, policing support, and territorial policing.

"By the time we get to the October 23, that seems to have changed to where the board are seeking to take control of all the corporate services – not just finance and human resources, but public affairs, communications and technology and development. So there's a fairly significant shift of power over to the authority."

The Herald revealed the brewing turf war between senior police officers and the SPA, reporting that Mr House is "spitting nails" over SPA attempts to take over the key functions.

The furore followed a letter to MSPs by SPA chairman Vic Emery, in which he said he was looking for a way to allow Mr House and his team "to concentrate their focus on policing".

He added: "What we have indicated in our early discussions with the chief constable is that the conventional arrangements, where all support functions and staff are automatically within the direction of the chief constable, require to be considered differently."

Mr Emery – previously chairman of the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA), which handled human resources, finance and other back-office functions for the SCDEA – has insisted this model contributed to the agency's recent success.

However, Mr Pearson, who quit the SCDEA in December 2008 after a row over interference by the SPSA, called the proposals "unwarranted".

He added: "If you're going to pay a man £250,000 a year then there should be one captain for the ship and if that captain fails then the board is there to hold him to account and to take the necessary action.

"There's conflict of interest and a lack of clarity, and we would always end up in a bun-fight about who failed in certain circumstances."

The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) said Mr House was at risk of being made "subservient" to the SPA chairman. Chief Superintendent David O'Connor, ASPS president, said: "If the chief constable is going to be held to account and have control over the service that means all of the service, not part of it."

Mr Emery said: "We want to work with the chief constable on the development of organisational structures that reduce costs and duplication, help us deliver our separate and shared obligations under the Act, and ensure the chief constable and his team can focus on the policing of Scotland."

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