Chiefs unite to rally against merger plan
‘No evidence to support single police force’
THREE of Scotland’s most senior policemen joined forces today to warn against a single force claiming it would be expensive, reduce the number of frontline officers and raise fears of government interference.
Grampian Police’s Colin McKerracher and his counterparts Pat Shearer, of Dumfries and Galloway and George Graham, of Northern Constabulary have written a letter challenging Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s claim that Scotland’s eight police forces are now “untenable”.
With a Scottish Government consultation under way into the possibility of a single force the chiefs said there was a lack of evidence in support of a merger, which they claimed would be expensive with no guarantee of creating savings.
The statement, signed by all three, said: “As three Chief Constables with significant experience of policing in Scotland, we are conscious of the current debate and ongoing consultation relating to the reform of the Scottish Police Service.
“We now believe in fairness to our own officers and staff, and to the communities we police, that it is time for us to make our professional position clear.”
“The financial crisis has caused us to review our approach to the delivery of policing but unfortunately this review has very quickly been overtaken by a structures debate where almost all of the effort and political rhetoric appears to be focused on a single police force for Scotland with little quality research or value being attached to a robust evidential approach.
“The safety of our communities is too important to be determined by such an approach where little cognisance seems to be being taken of current performance and the complexity, costs or timescales of change proposed or the significant reduction in police officers and staff associated with the change.”
The chiefs said all the evidence showed almost all major public sector reform since 1980 had failed and “created a loss of strategic focus, performance and morale”.
The statement described the current structure as “tried and tested” and said it would be better to tackle strengths and opportunities than become “distracted by structures and boundaries”.
Commenting on the joint statement of the chief constables, Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said the consultation into a single force by the Scottish Government was ongoing.
He added: “The appropriate time to decide on whether the reform option should be a regional structure of three or four, or one force, is once all the evidence and views have been received in response to the consultation.”
CRITICAL: Colin McKerracher.