Election 2016: A fair cop would be full accountability for Police

Douglas Ross
Douglas Ross

With just a week to go there will be a burst of activity from all the parties as we look to secure vital votes come polling day next Thursday.

In my final subject-specific column I want to look at an area close to my heart, policing.

I was a long-term sceptic of the SNP plans to create a single Scottish Police Force. I had previously sat on the Grampian Joint Police Board and became the first chair of the Police and Fire Scrutiny Committee in Moray.

While I accept there were savings made by not having eight different forces, senior officers, HR and admin departments there was a lot to lose locally and I think we have seen that here in Moray.

When the centralised force decided to remove traffic wardens from their remit we lost our wardens in Moray with little notice. There was a similar lack of consultation when front offices were closed or had their opening hours reduced.

When savings were made by reducing support staff you didn’t have to be Mystic Meg to foresee that their responsibilities would still need to be covered and these would now fall to police officers. It was like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

While the law is the same in every part of Scotland it is also widely recognised and accepted that there are different methods deployed across the country. Policing the capital in Edinburgh is always going to be different to policing in Elgin. Likewise policing in Garmouth will take a different form to policing in Grantown.

There has also been a significant drop in morale amongst officers as could be seen in the response to a staff survey. Our local communities pride the relationship they have with local officers and the efforts they go to, but fears remain that centralisation will continue to press a one-size-fits-all strategy for policing that would not be appropriate or acceptable in Moray.

Scottish Conservatives back a full review of the Single Police Force and want to ensure it is fully accountable to local communities again. Rather than simply carrying out the instructions of a Chief Constable in the Central Belt we should be supporting our local officers to police their areas the way they know best.

The SNP have been keen to centralise so many of our services and I believe the people of Moray have suffered as a result of this. Policing is just one example but it is clear that the SNP just want to exert more and more control from the centre and that is something the Scottish Conservatives will fight against.

Local people and communities know what works best for them. Governments should trust local people rather than dictating to them. I want to see more powers back in the hands of local people and away from the national government.

We have to learn lessons from the formation of a Single Police Force and get back to supporting our local officers and their methods which at the end of the day will deliver the best results.

This is the final week of submissions by candidates – all five candidates in Moray who have been providing weekly updates will do so one more time, and then on the day before the Election we will provide a final round-up.