The Thinning Blue Line – Conclusion
Conclusion Scotland is a diverse country and it is unlikely that in any public service area one uniform policy will work across the country. What works and is needed in Glasgow is unlikely to be the same on Skye. That does not mean to say that you can’t have one main set of laws applied throughout the country, simply that the problems and priorities will differ depending on where you are.
Reform Scotland argued against the centralisation of the police. While we agreed with the need for a more efficient and centralised police force to deal with higher level crimes, we believed that it was essential that this operated alongside local police forces which responded to, and were accountable to, people in the areas in which they operated. As we highlighted in our 2011 report, ‘Striking the Balance’, a number of other European countries, such as France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, operate multi-layered policing systems which allow for a strong central police force as well as local police forces.
It is still too early to comment on whether Police Scotland has met its goals in terms of efficiency savings and value for money. However, as the examples in this report indicate, there is a danger that the merger is becoming a takeover as Strathclyde’s policing practices are rolled out across the country, as opposed to maintaining local diversity in policing.
There are also concerns about the impact of the 1,000 additional officers pledge. While the fall in crime is to be welcomed, it is worrying that over the same period of falling crime and rising officer levels, the actual number of crimes being cleared-up has fallen. Whether this is as a result of officers having to spend more time covering work previously carried out by civilian staff is unclear. However, this certainly raises questions over efficiencies and value for money and suggests that the pledge has not led to 1,000 additional officers patrolling Scottish streets, which was what the public understood the policy would mean.
The centralisation of the police also acts as a warning about the loss of local input and diversity that other attempts at centralising services in Scotland could bring about.
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