POLICE Scotland has made considerable progress in the development of a modern, successful and forward-thinking police service since the merger of Scotland’s eight regional forces into a national single force in 2013.

Its achievements have largely been overlooked by the Scottish media, seeing little coverage while the TV and press have focused on a small number of high-profile failures.

Most recently, the almost £1 million compensation pay-out to a woman firearms officer for victimisation in the firearms unit, and for failure by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation to protect her, was headline news over several days across major media outlets.

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My case here is not to discount failures like the above but to seek fairness and balance in evaluating Police Scotland with a view to meeting the public’s entitlement to know more fully and confidently how to judge the performance of the police force people rely on to protect them.

So, what is the good news about Police Scotland? There is more than you might anticipate. Starting in 2019, a force survey found increasing confidence levels with 82% of respondents rating it high or very high, up from 81% in the previous year. The survey attracted little or no media coverage.

In the same year, the use of tasers in England and Wales was revealed to be nearly three times as common per head of population than in Scotland, yet the Daily Record presented the Scottish data as negative, failing to use the comparative data from England and Wales.

In a related 2020 report, Police Scotland was able to say its officers had never tasered a child in the seven years of the force’s existence while data from England revealed 25 such incidents in 2013 alone.

In its handling of law and order during the pandemic, Police Scotland was shown to have been more sensitive, issuing fines for lockdown laws at half the level of England and Wales.

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And in July 2020, Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, praised Police Scotland officers for their sensitive handling of women at risk during the pandemic.

She noted on BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “One of the big things we found on the helpline was that a really big part of the calls in the initial part of lockdown was just information about, if women decided to leave and could leave, would the police tell them that they had to go back.

“We heard some stories from England that that might have been the case. And I want to give lots of credit to the Scottish police. That was certainly never the message up here.”

Finally on lockdown policing, John Scott QC, speaking in June 2020 to the independent committee scrutinising the way the police had implemented lockdown told MSPs: “I’ve been in touch with colleagues in the human rights field in other countries and it appears Scotland is ahead of the game here in terms of having a human rights-based scrutiny of these emergency powers.

“I’ve spoken to colleagues in England and Northern Ireland are now moving further afield as well. So, I think it’s an extremely healthy sign that the initiative for this group came from within Police Scotland.”

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In October 2021, in the wake of the Sarah Everard case and the Metropolitan Police’s – at best – heavy-handed policing of a vigil in her memory, Police Scotland acted quickly to reassure the public with a new verification check for lone police officers. Members of the public in Scotland can now request a control room check.

Finally, in October/November 2021, Police Scotland handled the 40,000 crowds attending the COP26 conference with good humour and self-discipline, resulting in only 97 arrests. This led to widespread recognition and praise from police services throughout the world.

Credit where credit’s due?

Allan Dorans is the SNP MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock and is a former Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police.