Scotland politics

Single force law should be left unchanged, police watchdog head says

Police passing out parade Image copyright PA

Politicians should refrain from making more changes to the legislation that established Scotland's single force.

The warning came from Susan Deacon, who heads police watchdog, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Ms Deacon also cautioned against a review of the SPA, describing it as "one of the worst things that could be done at this point".

Her comments follow criticism about a lack of governance at the SPA and failings within Police Scotland itself.

The force, set up in 2013, has experienced numerous crises including failings in its call centre responses, IT problems and the resignation of two chief constables.

'Structure is right'

Ms Deacon was appearing alongside the newly-appointed chief constable Iain Livingstone at Holyrood's justice committee.

The committee is currently scrutinising the effectiveness of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, which established the single force.

Image caption Susan Deacon said Police Scotland and the SPA needed the chance to stabilise and develop

Asked if she believed the legislation was "fit for purpose", Ms Deacon responded: "Yes is the short answer.

"Fundamentally, I think the structure is right, and I think it's critically important, not least given some of the challenges that both Police Scotland the SPA faced in the early years, that the organisations now get the chance to really stabilise and develop and deliver policing."

'On a journey'

Ms Deacon said the SPA welcomed the post-legislative scrutiny process, but urged caution about making further changes to the act.

She said she had sought to improve governance and transparency since taking on her role and insisted there had been "fundamental changes" in the relationship between the SPA and the chief constable.

Image copyright Getty Images

She said: "We are still on a journey, I'm not for a moment saying that everything is exactly where it should be, but I do honestly think that a lot of those early issues that were played out very publicly... very public spats frankly between the SPA and the chief constable... I think we have moved on dramatically from there."

She went on to warn against a further independent review of the SPA, telling MSPs the body's current improvement plans had taken account of 14 separate reviews, which had made about 200 recommendations in total.

"I think one of the worst things that could be done at this point in time is yet another review of the SPA," she said.

'Night and day'

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone also advised against legislative change, stressing the overall impact of the formation of the single force.

"I don't think Scotland would be as safe now and in the future as it is had we not gone through that process of reform," he said.

He told MSPs that more than 320 murders had been committed since the single force was set up in 2013, all of which have been "detected", with the exception of two ongoing inquiries.

The new structure had also improved capacity to respond to unexplained deaths, he said.

"I think it's night and day to where we were previously."

Mr Livingstone added: "I would rather continue to run with the act as it is and make sure that the structures we have are properly implemented and properly understood."

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