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Police accountability “a joke”

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has slammed the Scottish government’s decision to hold a conference on improving local accountability of the police, saying the force was “out of control”.

His comments came after justice secretary Michael Matheson announced he would be holding a summit to improve the scrutiny of local policing.

The summit follows a steady attack on the SNP government for centralising Scotland’s emergency services, reducing local accountability and failing to prevent a more heavy-handed approach to police work.

The justice secretary said: “Local policing is at the very heart of Police Scotland and it is absolutely right that communities have their say in ensuring local police are concentrating on the priorities that are right for them.

“The move to a single service was only the beginning of the reform journey and building on our success to date is something that the police, SPA and the Scottish Government are firmly focused on.

“This summit is an excellent opportunity to put this commitment into practice and develop and improve the scrutiny arrangements of the police at a local level, which we know are already stronger than they were before reform.”

However Scott said that suggesting there was more local accountability under the new structure was “a complete joke”.

He said the government and the Scottish Police Authority had sat back while Scotland’s chief constable Stephen House introduced “New York-style policing”.

“This government has stood up and defended Stephen House and Police Scotland, while misleading parliament about the savings they have made from creating this state police force,” he said.

“Ministers have wrung their hands while we have seen the routine arming of police officers, an enormous increase of stop and search particularly of young people and now the introduction of facial recognition technology.

“Quite frankly this is an organisation that is out of control and can do what it wants and we can’t have a state police force like that in a modern democracy.”

Scott has advocated the creation of a series of regional police boards within the current structure to improve local accountability.

However he said he was unlikely to be invited to the summit to make the suggestion and the only way such a change could be introduced was with a change of government at next May’s election.

Meanwhile Shetland Islands Council convener and former Shetland chief inspector Malcolm Bell his own veiled criticism of the government’s restructuring of the service.

“Summits were not required in the days of Northern Constabulary as they were acknowledged leaders in the field of community policing,” he said.

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