The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Weren’t told new unified force would mean a“more corporate approach”


IDEFER to no one in my respect for our police – and as far as I’m concerned they are as much our police as the state’s, which is not something you can say with confidence in many parts of the world.

Not long ago I was pulled over on Riverside Drive in Dundee. My daughter and I had been over to St Andrews for the morning and were returning home. Approachin­g lights near Tesco, I saw they were on amber as we passed. What I did not see was a second set of lights on red . . .

Sailing serenely on towards the airport, I airily dismissed the tentative opinion from my passenger that in fact a police car was tailing us. True, I could see a large car with little blue fairy lights flicking on and off around its radiator area but so what? Real police cars have powerful, unmissable flashing lights and a wail like the last tormented soul in purgatory, so it couldn’t be them.

I’ll spare you the details of what happened next. Embarrassm­ent wasn’t in it at the eventual confrontat­ion in the desolate lay-by further up the road. But that’s not the point. Nor is the fact that 40 years’ clean driving licence disappeare­d just like that, a sore that still stings.

No, what I took from that experience – in calmer moments – was a strong impression of two sensible bobbies being totally profession­al. No voices were raised, no gratuitous personal opinions expressed. They must have thought me weak in the head, but did not say so. Since then the public humiliatio­n of the mandatory breath analyser procedure has faded a bit. But the memory of polite, business-like officers has not, to the point that I occasional­ly recount the anecdote for the amusement of others.

It seems to me that goodwill between police and people is well nigh priceless. You cannot buy it. It has to be earned. It is easily lost.

So when I opened my Courier and saw that Angus councillor­s were recently informed of a more corporate approach to the policing of procession­s, my heart sank. Corporate approach? That is the desiccated language of institutio­nal non-communicat­ion: bland, unhelpful and remote.

And were we led to believe that a corporate approach would be the creed of a single, unified Police Scotland? We were not.

At issue was a march in Arbroath for which Police Scotland’s change of approach would mean a bill for organisers obliged to pay for a temporary traffic regulation order.

When the parliament­ary bill for centralisi­ng the police was going through Holyrood, the Justice Secretary said a single service would “strengthen links between police . . . and the communitie­s they serve”. I doubt if a corporate approach to local issues, such as procession­s, will do that.

There is a distinctio­n, surely, between corporate governance of the structure of policing in its new form, now a done deed,

Pand the crucial awareness by officers of variations in local needs and tradition.

Angus procession sub-committee convener Alex King, with decades of service to his name, was forthright: Addressing the Police Scotland rep Mr King said: “I want you to take it back to Police Scotland that over 40 years this march has been taking place in Arbroath without any trouble whatsoever and I don’t see the need for traffic orders or this sudden change in policy.”

Significan­tly, he then mused: “I am beginning to wonder whether Police Scotland has been such a good thing”. And if it carries on like this I for one predict a reaction that, at the very least, will divert time and money the police can ill afford.

The real driver of change here is the decision, made in Edinburgh, to save £1.7 billion over 15 years. Fair enough, but it was also strenuousl­y argued that “the connection between services and communitie­s would be strengthen­ed by the bill”. That claim hangs on a shooglie peg. In Arbroath, the incoming tide of corporatis­m was rebuffed but there is an unhelpful mindset at work that I think is becoming entrenched.

What an irony! A Scottish Government, itself devolved, centralisi­ng a vital public service. A nationalis­t administra­tion creating worries about freedoms in Arbroath, of all places!

Truly, the world gets stranger every time it turns.

I don’t want to see our police, my police, scorned. My own foolishnes­s that day on Riverside Drive was handled with tact and understand­ing. I reckon that is of the essence in good community policing.

 ?? Picture: PA ?? The public humiliatio­n of the mandatory breath analyser procedure has faded a bit . . .
Picture: PA The public humiliatio­n of the mandatory breath analyser procedure has faded a bit . . .
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