Earlier this year, the Scottish Government appointed an Independent Advisory Group to examine the use of stop and search powers.

The group has been given the task of putting forward recommendations on the divisive issue of non-statutory stop and search, and advising ministers on a statutory code of practice.

This is not the first time that stop and search has been subject to formal scrutiny in Scotland. Indeed, the recently appointed group in many ways owes its existence to decision-making over a decade ago, and an apparent unwillingness by police chiefs and the-then Scottish Executive to engage with the use of these powers.

To explain: in 1999, Lord Macpherson presented his report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. The report detailed the botched police investigation, the failings of the Metropolitan Police leadership and put forward a range of recommendations.

In regard to stop and search, Lord Macpherson recommended that all searches be recorded and a copy given to the person searched; that the data should be analysed and published; and a duty placed on police authorities to inform people of their rights. In a nutshell, stop and search should be made accountable.

The Macpherson report led to into two separate inquiries. The one in England and Wales resulted in major policy changes on stop and search. Its Scottish counterpart, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in Scotland, achieved little in this respect.

Following publication of the Macpherson report, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) established a short-life working group to consider its recommendations. On the question of stop and search, it stated that to record every search "would be a justifiable and valuable exercise if it were demonstrated and argued that these powers were being regularly abused, and to the detriment of a particular section of society, as seems to be the case in some parts of England and Wales". The group concluded, however, there was "nothing to suggest that this is the case in Scotland".

Put another way, stop and search was viewed through the lens of race. And without demonstrable evidence of ethnic disproportionality, it followed that stop and search was not a problem.

This relaxed logic fed into The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Action Plan for Scotland report. Published by the Scottish Executive in July 1999, the document cautioned that the stop search recommendations would require a "large bureaucracy to implement" and noted a lack of criticism to date.

Towards the end of 1999, a steering group was appointed to take the action plan forward. The group commissioned an independent study into young people's experiences of stop and search, which in hindsight makes for prescient reading. In addition to recommendations on recording, publishing statistics, and making people aware of their rights, the authors suggested that Acpos provide guidance on searching children, and engage with the legal and civil liberties issues raised by non-statutory stop and search. Caution was also advised over the use of performance targets.

In 2002, the Steering Group was disbanded, and the Scottish Executive took responsibility for the Action Plan. Whilst stop searches were recorded from 2005 onwards by dint of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, no other recommendations were introduced. Copies of the search record were not made available, police authorities were not required to publicise people's rights, the non-statutory issue was not tackled and crucially, data were not made available.

By 2012/13, search rates in Scotland exceeded those in England and Wales seven times over. It's a startling statistic which in some respect can be related a lack of open data. Whilst it's been pointed out that stop and search wasn't an issue before the Police Scotland amalgamation, the fact of the matter is that no-one really knew.

Looking back, the recent problems can in some ways be attributed to decision-making over a decade ago. In equating stop and search with "race" and the difficulties of the Metropolitan police, Scotland arguably missed the point on stop and search, which was about taking responsibility for the use of search powers, and ensuring they are used fairly and effectively.

Kath Murray is research fellow at Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, School of Law, the University of Edinburgh.