House must change, or go
When the Scottish Government backed plans for a single police force, sound arguments were made that the then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was pushing through a dangerous policy.
The projected cost savings, critics said, looked optimistic and the creation of Police Scotland would put too much power in the hands of one chief constable.
There were also fears that a one-size-fits-all approach to policing would undermine different approaches adopted in different areas to deal with specific problems.
The first sign that those fears would prove justified came when the Edinburgh policy of tolerating brothels was ripped up.
House then pushed through a national policy on armed police.
Finally, and most damningly, the industrial use of a dodgy stop and search he pioneered at Strathclyde was rolled out nationally.
Over the last 12 months, House’s frisking strategy has unravelled to such an extent that his job is now on the line.
All three examples have one thing in common: Police Scotland sped down a hazardous road without consulting the public, or indeed the body set up to act as a watchdog to oversee police activities.
Today’s front page story also suggests that the links between the single police force and the Scottish Government have been too close.
Academic Kath Murray exposed the stop and search scandal in January last year, but Police Scotland and the Government both tried to meddle and interfere with her research.
When the Government secured a two-day delay in the publication date of her findings, both bodies colluded in organising a stop and search event on the same date she had been persuaded to give up.
Such blatant manipulation would have been hard to pull off if eight police forces and a government press office had been involved, but it is far easier now.
Another recurring theme of Police Scotland is House’s obvious distaste for being challenged.
At a Holyrood justice committee session last week, called to get an explanation for his false account of the release of stop and search figures, the chief constable was prickly and unimpressive when questioned.
He came across as a man who is used to getting his own way and who feels piqued when politicians have the audacity to question him.
Nor does the Scottish Police Authority emerge from the whole sorry mess with much credit. It is theit job to hold the police to account and they have signally failed to do so.
So far, Police Scotland is a failed experiment and confidence in the chief constable is ebbing.
It is still far from certain if he can remain in post. Should he do so he must change his approach – and that means consulting the public and the Scottish Police Authority on significant new practices. If he fails to do so the Scottish government should find someone who will.