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Commitment to enhance policing in Scotland

Published: 3 Sep 2015 14:32

Range of actions announced by Justice Secretary to address concerns

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson today announced a wide-ranging package of measures to strengthen policing in Scotland and address areas of concern as he gave a statement to Parliament.

Mr Matheson acknowledged that there have been challenges in recent months, but said concerns have been listened to - and are being acted on.

He said the significant and wide-ranging set of actions being announced today by the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and SPA would strengthen policing in Scotland and rebuild public trust.

The statement coincided with the publication of two reports this morning – an interim report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland into call handling ordered by the Justice Secretary following the tragic deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell on the M9, and John Scott QC's report and recommendations on the use of stop and search in Scotland.

In response to those reports and the wider concerns around policing in recent months, Mr Matheson today announced:

• A review of Policing in Scotland is underway following the First Minister's Programme for Government statement earlier this week, focusing specifically on developing new priorities.

• The Scottish Government will ensure Police Scotland and SPA act immediately to implement recommendations made by the HMICS in their interim report into call handling. This includes new Scottish Government funding of £1.4 million to be made available to Police Scotland to allow them to accelerate recruitment of 70 to 75 call handling staff to consolidate service centre operations, plus additional area control room staff to ensure that the combined North Area Control Room in Dundee is fully operational before the closure of the Aberdeen and Inverness control rooms. It will also support the retention of staff in Aberdeen and Inverness for a period beyond 31 March 2016 to allow for an effective handover of operations

• The Scottish Government has appointed Andrew Flanagan, former Chief Executive of the NSPCC, as the new Chair of the Scottish Police Authority. The Justice Secretary has asked Mr Flanagan to undertake an immediate review of police governance.

• A new statutory code of practice, as recommended by John Scott QC, will be introduced to underpin how stop and search is used in Scotland. A consultation on the new code of practice will begin shortly, and will also examine whether the police should have the power to search children under 18 for alcohol. The expert advisory group, led by John Scott QC, will remain in place to advice on the final version of the code of practice once the consultation is complete.

• The current system of consensual stop and search will end once that code comes into effect.

• Additional measures to further strengthen local accountability and scrutiny of policing are to be implemented. This will include the Chief Constable undertaking a new programme of scrutiny sessions across the country, allowing the opportunity for more direct accountability of the performance of policing in local areas. A Local Scrutiny Summit is also to be held later this month, chaired by the Justice Secretary to look at further areas for improvement.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:

"Policing in Scotland has gone through the most significant public sector reform in a generation. Change on this scale will always present challenges but I want to assure the Parliament and public that concerns raised in recent months in relation to policing have been listened to - and are being acted on.

"What I have set out today is a significant and wide-reaching set of measures which will strengthen policing and rebuild public trust.

"I've announced increased funding for Police Scotland to accelerate the recruitment of new specialist call centre staff and retain existing staff; a new code of practice to govern the use of stop and search in Scotland and the appointment of a highly experienced new SPA chair who will carry out an immediate review of police governance. I've also announced new measures to further strengthen local policing in communities across the country and to ensure local communities have a greater say in shaping and delivering policing in their areas.

"I fully accept there are challenges and some of the events over the summer have prompted legitimate public concern. But the fundamentals of our policing remain sound – a skilled and committed workforce of officers and staff who deliver for our communities every day, and a process of reform to protect policing from the effects of austerity.

"Policing in Scotland is built on strong foundations. Crime is at a 40 year low and violent crime is at its lowest levels since 1974 and the creation of Police Scotland has allowed us to maintain officer numbers at 1,000 higher than they were in 2007. Compare that to South of the Border, where just this week policing numbers were predicted to fall by a further 20,000 – on top of the 15,000 already lost – to fall to their lowest levels in 40 years.

"The action I am announcing will address the challenges and help us learn from the initial years of reform. It will ensure policing in Scotland is effective, accountable and community focused."

A full copy of the Cabinet Secretary's speech can be found at: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Justice-Secretary-Statement-on-Policing-1c94.aspx

Notes to editors

The full HMICS interim report into call handling can be found at http://hmics.org/publications/independent-assurance-review-police-scotland-%E2%80%93-call-handling-interim-report

The final report from John Scott into Stop and Search Practices in Scotland can be found at http://www.gov.scot/About/Review/stopandsearch

John Scott is available for interview. He can be contacted at 07779 328656 and johndscott@talk21.com.

Contact: Holly Gilfether, 0131 244 2718, holly.gilfether@scotland.gsi.gov.uk