By Christine Lavelle
SENIOR officers have clashed with the Scottish Government over plans to merge Scottish police forces.
The Scottish Government no longer want eight separate constabularies, nor do they want one super-force, but speculation is growing over how many forces this will mean as the policing landscape of the country gets set for a major change.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has hit back at claims that money is being wasted at the eight HQs.
Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Patrick Shearer, president of ACPOS, said: “What should be stressed is that the current structures are delivering a police service widely regarded as one of the best in the world.
“We’re seeing crime levels at a record low and public confidence high as detection rates climb.
“I’d like to dispel the myth, however, that 25 per cent of the policing budget is wasted in back office functions that add no value to policing and that savings should be targeted on ‘headquarters’.
“As well as important support work which is done centrally in a force, there’s a wide range of front line operational activities such as drugs squad, surveillance, special branch and public protection which are vital to efficient local policing.”
Dr Kenneth Scott, director of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Police Studies at the West of Scotland University said he believes the forces could be merged into three, and that senior officers could already be looking for the chance to gain a spot.
He said: “The fact that Alex Salmond has publicly talked about the amount of spending on the eight forces’ headquarters in the last few weeks is significant.
“I have a suspicion he’s preparing the ground for the merging of forces.
“There will be some senior police officers on fixed-term contracts looking at merging with some trepidation and I’d imagine there will already be politicking going on behind the scenes.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Given the likely reduction in Scotland’s overall budget, reform of how the police deploy their resources is entirely appropriate.
“While ministers’ direction of travel is not towards a single police force, the Scottish Government is certainly not tied to maintaining the current structure of eight.”
Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “The sustainable policing sub group, set up by the Scottish Policing Board, is currently examining all the issues.
“If money is the primary driving force for the reconstruction of policing in Scotland then that venture is doomed to failure.
“If cost savings can be shown to be delivered while continuing to maintain high standards in policing then we would welcome the venture.”