Scotland think tank calls for greater council role in local policing

Reform Scotland has called for councils to be given a greater role in Scottish policing, in order to increase local accountability.

The think tank made the recommendation in a briefing paper put together in response to a government consultation on strategies for Scotland’s police force.

The Reinventing Local Policing briefing called for the return of council funding for the police along with reforms to local government. Reform Scotland focused on three areas of improvement, including: funding - prior to the foundation of

Police Scotland, local authorities contributed 50 per cent of police funding, and Reform Scotland want to see this reinstated; governance - the think tank want each council to nominate a representative to the Scottish Police Authority; and local government reform - the SNP has pledged to review the structure of local government, and Reform Scotland said this should be done before reforming the police force, saying ‘the horse must be put before the cart’.

Alison Payne, research director at the think tank, commented: "Reform Scotland opposed the creation of Police Scotland for the very reasons which have gradually been identified as problems, mainly the lack of local accountability. We are therefore pleased that the Scottish government has placed an emphasis on localism and accountability in its draft priorities.

"However, we remain concerned that, under the current centralised structure, there is no obvious way to actually make localism happen.

"For that reason, we have proposed that both the funding and governance structure must change. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and on that principle we believe that local authorities should again be responsible for funding 50 per cent of policing, with the Scottish Government continuing to fund the other 50 per cent.

"Furthermore, we believe that each local authority should be able to nominate a member of the Scottish Police Authority to ensure that local priorities are adequately represented.

"The creation of Police Scotland was a mistake, and in the absence of any further wholesale reform we all have a responsibility to make the smaller changes which can help re-create local policing."

A spokesman for the Scotland government said: "Despite the inevitable challenges of implementing the most significant public sector reform in Scotland since devolution - which was backed by cross-party support across the Scottish Parliament - policing continues to perform excellently.

"Recorded crime in Scotland is at a 41-year low, with violent crime down by more than half since 2006-07.

"The Scottish government has already commissioned a review of governance from the chair of the SPA which was published in March, setting out 30 recommendations for further strengthening oversight of policing and we are working closely with SPA to deliver on these."