Scotland

Police Scotland tension 'constructive'

Scotland's police chief has dismissed claims of a power struggle with the head of the police authority, classing it as "constructive tension".

Sir Stephen House said he had not hidden the fact there was tension with authority head Vic Emery, but insisted relations were positive.

His comments came in the wake of concerns over Scotland's newly-merged national police force.

Mr Emery said relations were "good and getting better".

Their comments came as they gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's audit committee on the progress of the new service - a merger of Scotland's eight regional forces - which came into force in April.

A recent report by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland said it was unclear how the police force would make expected savings of £1.1bn, by 2026.

And it said the merger had been hampered by disputes between Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, which acts as a watchdog.

Sir Stephen, chief constable of Police Scotland, told the committee that relations were "positive and getting better", adding: "I'm not going to hide the fact that there were tensions - there were."

The chief constable went on: "There's not a personality clash between myself and Vic and it is not a power struggle between myself and Vic - far from it."

Savings 'confidence'

Sir Stephen put the issues down to the "wide interpretation" provided by the legislation on the new set-up, in terms of the police authority maintaining the police service in Scotland.

He added: "That is bound to drive a certain level of, 'who's leading this and who's leading that?'

"But it's been constructive tension in terms of, we want to do the best job that we possibly can."

Mr Emery, chairman of the Scottish Police Authority, added: "I think the relationships are good and I think they're getting better."

On the issue of savings, Sir Stephen told MSPs: "If you were to say to us, could we be confident of getting the 1.1bn over the next 12, 13 years, we believe the start we've already made is a pretty good start, getting towards that £1.1bn and there is a lot more that we can do."

Sir Stephen also said police officers were filling in for redundant or retired civilian support staff on a daily basis.

He said there was no official policy to replace the hundreds of staff leaving under Police Scotland's cost-cutting drive with frontline officers, but confirmed it had happened.

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