Police Superintendents Conference speech
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill addressed the 89th annual conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents in Peebles today.
The key points from his speech are:
“ASPS has made an important and consistently constructive contribution to the debate on Police and Fire reform. I thank you all for that.
In Scotland, we enjoy genuinely world-class policing, with crime at a 35 year low, and public confidence at a historic high. The clear-up rate for all recorded crime is the highest in over 30 years.
The role of ASPS and its members – the operational leaders of the service – has been central to that success.
The senior operational commanders and managers are delivering local policing and specialist investigations and operations right across Scotland.
You manage the critical and high-profile events upon which the reputation of the service – and Scotland – rests. You work tirelessly, day in and day out, to tackle the major challenges that face Scotland’s communities. You are planning for the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, which will put Scotland on the world stage and showcase your professionalism.
Thank you for your dedication and commitment in helping deliver successful policing.
That success – and frontline policing – is under threat by Westminster budget cuts. The only way to secure those hard-won gains is through reform.
ASPS has consistently advocated a single police service – even before I had declared a favoured option. Thank you. I believe the strong case you made, highlighting the benefits of a single service, was crucial. Thank you to ASPS for having the courage of your convictions.
Earlier this month the Police and Fire Reform Bill passed Stage 1 of the Parliamentary process with an overwhelming majority.
We have listened to your comments and our Stage 2 amendments to the Bill have now been tabled. We appreciate there are details that still need to be worked out. We will continue to listen and to be flexible.
I can assure you that we will work with and consult you every step of the way.
The Police Service of Scotland will strengthen the links with communities by creating local commanders who will work with local authorities and other partners to meet local needs. Police forces are currently working with 27 local authorities on Pathfinder pilots which are trialling new local arrangements for working together to agree and deliver local priorities.
This will mean more responsibility devolved to officers, particularly in your ranks, and giving significant delegated authority to shape local policing. Your expertise and operational leadership will be central to the success of the new service at a local level.
We are now just 10 months from Day 1 of the new Police Service of Scotland. Preparations are well underway to ensure the smooth transition to the new service.
Good progress is being made across all areas, in service and Government-led projects, and I would like to express my appreciation for all the hard work being undertaken.
There will no “millennium moment” on Day 1. To a certain extent, success will be the people of Scotland noticing no difference when they wake up on 1 April 2013.
Reform is essential now, to protect frontline services and keep our communities safer and stronger in the face of Westminster budget cuts. But we have an opportunity to make a virtue out of necessity.
Reform offers an opportunity to create stronger connections with councils and communities and ensure equal access to specialist support.
With reform, there will be a powerful new Scottish Police Authority, independent from Ministers, that will hold the Chief Constable to account.
The Bill provides strong safeguards to ensure Ministers cannot control or direct the Authority or the Chief Constable to do anything relating to police operations. It is crystal clear that only the appropriate prosecutor can direct the Chief Constable in relation to the investigation of offences.
You have consistently argued for the early appointment of a Chief Constable. You made a strong case. And I have been persuaded that an earlier appointment is necessary to help maintain the momentum that has been building on the detailed transition work. I can tell you today that I will make sure that it happens.
I know there are concerns that ASPS or the Executive Committee are not named in the Bill. I hear those concerns, and I fully understand and agree with what you're seeking to achieve. I have written to you to explain the detailed reasons why we don't name non-statutory organisations such as ASPS in legislation. But I can assure you that I am fully committed to continuing the ongoing and positive engagement with the ASPS Executive Committee.
As you know the Bill places an obligation on me and future Scottish Ministers to consult and with - and I quote - "Such persons as appear to them to be representatives of superintendents".
It's absolutely clear to me that that means the Executive Committee of ASPS.
What we can all certainly agree on is that reform is necessary.
Looking south of the Border, where terms and conditions are being threatened by Winsor and police officer numbers are being savagely cut, you can see why.
Our single service is the only way to protect the service against Westminster budget cuts.
Maintaining police officer numbers is at the heart of this Government’s pledge to ensure Scotland’s communities stay safe and strong.
This is in stark contrast to England and Wales, where police officer numbers continue to fall.
There are 17,343 officers in Scotland. That is an increase of 126 officers over the last year – and 1,109 more than in March 2007.
This high profile policing across Scotland is helping to make our communities safer. Recorded crime is at a 35-year low, after a further four per cent reduction on the previous year, helped by the 1,000 extra officers we have put on our streets.
We’ve seen crimes of handling an offensive weapon fall by more than a third since 2006-7 – the lowest in a decade. There are fewer people carrying knives, and of those who do, more are being caught and given longer sentences than ever.
Also, the risk of being a victim of crime is falling and is three per cent lower than in England and Wales.
Looking south of the Border, the latest figures show a decrease of 6,012 officers between September 2010 - September 2011.
That will not happen in Scotland. This Government values the police service, and the incredible contribution you make day in, day out, in every part of the country.
Nor will we be implementing the UK Government’s unpopular Winsor package in Scotland, not now, not ever.
I don’t believe that Winsor 2 is the right package. Not only is it the wrong package, it’s frankly insulting.
Let me be clear, we did not ask for Winsor and we will not accept it. While we will no doubt have some difficult discussions and negotiations ahead –– we will not be implementing the Winsor package of recommendations in Scotland.
There is a debate south of the Border about privatisation. The Police Service of Scotland is a service – it is not a business and it will not be privatised.
As well as safeguarding officer numbers and not imposing the Winsor package in Scotland, I also want to ensure the safety of officers.
I have said before that no one should have to face violence in their day-to-day work, but police do. Officers who are subjected to violence often need professional care to restore them to full physical and mental health.
This treatment is often paid for by the victims themselves through payments to the Benevolent Fund, and to their Treatment Centres.
I don’t think it’s fair those police officers should have to pay.
We want to provide restitution for those who serve and suffer.
We hope to have an opportunity to take forward legislation on this next year. We believe this would be doing the right thing by our officers, and I would welcome your views on such a scheme.
In conclusion, I thank you for your support and advice. Thank you for the constructive approach you have taken to reform. And, most of all, thank you for the dedication, commitment and leadership you demonstrate every day.
The establishment of the new Police Service of Scotland is an exciting opportunity to protect what we have delivered and to take down artificial barriers.
It is now down to you to build on your outstanding record, to create the safer and stronger Scotland we all want to be a part of.
Yes, reform and the new single service will help us meet the financial challenge. But, more importantly, it is about protecting and improving frontline services, ensuring more equal access to specialist and national services; and about strengthening local accountability.
The Scottish Government will continue to do the right things for policing in Scotland. We will maintain our commitment to officer numbers, to not imposing the Winsor package in Scotland, and to ensuring criminals who assault police officers contribute towards support for victims.
In turn, I know I can depend on all of you to continue to support a seamless transition to the new service.
You have helped delivered safer communities across Scotland.
It will be you working as local commanders and other roles in the new single service, who will build on that outstanding record to deliver a new Police Service of Scotland, for the people of Scotland.”