Lib Dems seek to put democracy back in policing

Scottish Liberal Democrats are to seek to put democracy back into Scottish policing, it has been revealed today.

Radical proposals to make the senior police chief in each of Scotland’s 32 council areas accountable to the local authority, end one-size-fits-all policing, and reform the Scottish Police Authority will be debated at the party’s Autumn Conference in October.

The proposals, which are backed by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes, call for the establishment of a policing plan for each local authority area in Scotland driven by a senior officer. The plan would need the backing of the relevant local authority, a move which it is hoped by the party would prevent a repeat of the case which saw armed police on the streets of the Highland despite the councils rejection.

In a bid to remove direct ministerial control over the appointment of Scottish Police Authority members, the membership of the Scottish Police Authority would become Scottish Parliament appointments, on a vote of at least a two-thirds majority, in a similar way to other commissioners.

The party has also repeated calls for the powers of the Chief Constable to be defined in statute. The move, already being proposed by Alison McInnes as an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, would ‘reflect that the historic tri-partite structure has been changed and that there is a need for new democratic checks and balances to be created.’

The substantial plans also include provision for local authorities to have matters included on the Scottish Police Authority agenda, and give them a right of attendance at meetings of the Authority.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have led criticism of the centralisation of Police Scotland because it severed the link between police and local communities.

“Our proposals to put democracy back into Scottish policing are radical and substantial. They would ensure that the democratic architecture of the single force gives local communities a voice.

“I look forward to debating these further at conference. But I will be clear that there is nothing to stop SNP ministers giving these proposals serious consideration straight away.

“We need to return to police by consent where communities feel ownership of the police service in their area whilst pooling resources for specialist units and services.  This will help to restore the confidence of the public and the morale of police officers and civilian staff.   Protecting our civil liberties and keeping us safe are two ambitions for this sensible but radical policy.”

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