- Officer numbers projected to fall 11% E&W, will not happen in Scotland
- Winsor 2 Will not be implemented in Scotland
- Successor to PNB (because of winsor) should take a similar form, and not disadvantage Fed/officers like Winsor Proposals
- New CC of Police Service of Scotland appointed ASAP
- Less chance of becoming victim of crime in scotland (17.8% vs 21.5% in England and Wales)
- Possibility of additional fines on Police Assault going to Castlebrae/Police Benevolent Fund
Kenny MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, response to SPF Chairman's address to the SPF Annual Conference 2012.
Chairman – thank you for your introduction. Once again, I’d like to welcome you to your role as Chairman and wish you every success. With almost 30 years of service – after a stint as a footballer, I believe – you’re perfectly placed to represent the interests of frontline officers at this crucial time for Scottish policing. I’d also like to record my gratitude to your predecessor, Les Gray. A passionate and committed campaigner, he worked constructively and positively with the government on a range of issues. I am delighted to be here again to address this, your 92nd annual conference.
Let me start by paying tribute to the outstanding contribution made by officers in our police service on a daily basis in communities the length and breadth of Scotland. Federation members successfully deliver frontline policing locally and nationally, in villages, towns and cities right across Scotland. You manage critical incidents, including those involving firearms, serious public disorder and major crime, and command major events from high profile football matches to VIP visits. Your role is critical in supporting a safer and stronger Scotland, a Scotland which is ready to face the challenges ahead.
Scotland enjoys 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. Everyone working in the police service has contributed to that success and it is something which you and your members should be proud of. I believe that the only way to secure those hard-won gains is through reform. Chairman, as you said, we are just one year away from the single biggest change to policing in Scotland, so it is appropriate that I talk to you about that today. I regret that this was a decision which was originally against your wishes, and so I am grateful that you are now on board and supporting as we move towards a single service.
I also want to restate our ongoing commitment to officer numbers, and our opposition to imposing the Winsor package in Scotland and Westminster’s ongoing attack on public sector pensions. Finally, I want to address the issue of officer safety, and specifically how we can make sure that criminals who assault police officers contribute to measures to support the victims of their crime.
As I just said, I am grateful that you the Federation is now supporting our move to a single service. We believe that creating a single service is the only way to sustain success and protect you, and the valuable services you provide, to our communities, against Westminster budget cuts. That is why – after sustained discussion, dialogue and debate – we brought our proposals for a single police service to the Scottish Parliament. As you say Chairman, the Federation has been at the heart of that debate – always constructive, and always acting in the best interests of officers and the communities they serve.
Thank you, for the positive way in which you are engaging with us on reform. I value the high priority you are giving this work. And I am sure we will continue to work constructively together for the greater benefit of the service in the months and years ahead. A single service, the Police Service of Scotland, is the only way to protect and improve the service you give local communities. It is the only way to safeguard the extra officers we have in communities.
Reform will lessen the impact of Westminster budget cuts, to allow us to maintain frontline services, in the light of potential budget cuts of £1.72 billion over the next 16 years. And ensure we can sustain high quality and cost effective policing in the long-term. A single Police Service of Scotland will ensure resources are focused on your efforts as hardworking police officers – not costly duplication of senior posts – and will deliver £106 million annual cashable savings from 2017-18.
Reform will provide a structure fit for the 21st Century. As you said, the structure was created more than 35 years ago, before unitary councils and community planning partnerships, before the Scottish Parliament, and before many of the challenges faced by today’s modern policing even existed.
Reform will give all communities across Scotland access to national and specialist resources and assets and give Scotland the capacity and capability we need to deal with crime which shows no respect for boundaries or lines on maps. You have the expertise to deal with existing and emerging threats, including cyber crime and international terrorism.
Reform will strengthen local accountability and engagement. It will bring decisions and accountability for services closer to communities. We have established the pathfinder projects to help you work with local authorities and fire and rescue services to trial new local engagement and scrutiny arrangements before they are formally introduced on 1st April next year.
But most of all, reform and a single police service is essential to protect local services for the long term. That is what drives our proposals.
Chairman, you make reference to a number of specific issues. The Federation has given evidence to the Parliamentary Committees which have been considering the government’s legislation. I am aware of your concerns, which I will consider carefully and formally respond to Parliament on in May. In the meantime, let me address some of your points
Firstly, I agree that the Chief Constable should be appointed as soon as possible and we are working hard to ensure that this is the case. We are also working with ACPOS on how the new service will be structured and delivered. I expect proposals to be well developed before the Chief Constable is in post. Secondly, I agree that assaults on police officers are completely unacceptable, and I will return to this point later in my address. Thirdly, a single service will provide clear opportunities for police officers to develop their careers across Scotland, if that is what individuals want.
The Chief Constable needs flexibility to deploy officers where they are needed most, and it is not for Government to restrict how the leadership of the new service directs its constables in the future. However, let me make clear that your current terms and conditions, including where you are required to work will be absolutely protected when you transfer into the new service. There will be opportunities to improve and refine the legislation through the parliamentary process. Working closely with you and other stakeholders, we want to ensure the legislation is as effective as possible.
As the Bill makes its way through Parliament, the government will keep listening. Working together, I am confident we will deliver a robust, effective and high quality piece of legislation that meets the expectations of Scotland’s communities and the service
Maintaining police officer numbers is at the heart of this government’s pledge to ensure Scotland’s communities stay safe and strong. At your conference last year, you asked for a firm commitment to maintain police officer numbers. I am happy to re-state that commitment today. This government will continue its pledge to deliver additional police officers in Scotland’s communities. 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 visible policing right 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 1000 extra officers we have put on our streets.
Also, the risk of being a victim crime is falling and is lower than in England & Wales. (17.8% compared with 21.5%) We’ve seen a fall in crimes of handling an offensive weapon 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. I recognise that the Olympics later this year will provide the police with additional challenges at a time when you are involved in the transition to the new Police Service.
I don’t underestimate the pressures on staff, particularly with up to 500 officers likely to be deployed south of the border. I appreciate that it is important for arrangements around mutual aid to be clarified as early as possible for the staff and forces involved. Mutual aid is an operational matter and I am sure this is something on which the police are working.
Chairman, the position here in Scotland is in stark contrast to England and Wales, where police officer numbers continue to fall. The latest figures show there were a decrease of 4.2 per cent or 6,012 officers in a year. And a report by HMIC has predicted that officer numbers in England and Wales will fall even further – decreasing by 16,200 or 11 per cent by the end of the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review period. That will not happen in Scotland. This government values the police service, and the incredible contribution officers make day in, day out, in every part of Scotland.
That is why we will not be implementing the UK Government’s unpopular Winsor package in Scotland. I don’t believe that Winsor 2 is the right package – or, indeed, the right approach – to get the results we need. Part 2 of Tom Winsor’s report makes 121 recommendations on pay and conditions and other aspects of the service for your colleagues in England and Wales and I find some of the recommendations frankly insulting. I am aware that the Chairman of the Federation in England and Wales has said that this is a “deliberate, sustained attack” on the police by the UK Government.
Let me be clear, we did not ask for Winsor and we will not accept it. The Police Service of Scotland is a service – it is not a business and it will not be privatised.
I give you an absolute assurance that the privatisation scenario that seems to be being looked at south of the border is not being—and never will be—considered by this Administration. It is completely unacceptable to tell the police officers who do a difficult and sometimes dangerous job – often putting their lives on the line – we will lower their starting salaries and seek to divide them between frontline and community police. This Scottish Government will not do that. While we will no doubt have some difficult discussions and negotiations ahead –– we will not be implementing the Winsor package of recommendations in Scotland.
The Home Secretary has directed the Police Negotiating Board to consider Winsor 2 and as you know, Scottish Government officials are involved in that process, as is Calum Steele, your General Secretary. I will be keeping a close eye on that process and any implications for policing in Scotland.
POLICE NEGOTIATING BOARD
As a result of Winsor, the Police Negotiating Board’s days seem to be numbered.
But the suggestion to replace it with a pay review body – taking away the negotiating rights of the Federation – seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. It may not be easy, but I believe that we in Scotland can arrive at solutions which work through mutual respect, frank negotiation, and mature agreement. If we are to set up a successor to PNB that works for Scotland, its design should be one that is decided upon by consensus, not by me imposing something upon the service. I am sure you will agree that is a far more desirable approach than the one that seems to be happening south of the border.
In the meantime, we are pressing ahead with establishing a Scotland Standing Committee which will serve our needs in Scotland better, whilst the PNB remains in place. I know the Federation will engage constructively with Government officials in helping to get the design of the committee - and what will replace it - right.
The UK Government also wants to attack your pensions. I think it’s a scandal and the wrong thing to do in a time of pay freezes across the public sector. The Scottish Government remains committed to public sector pensions which are affordable, sustainable and fair. We will ensure arrangements are put in place to ensure that moves to a single police service are at no detriment to your pensions, and that officers and staff remain eligible for the membership of their current pension schemes. There may, of course, be other changes as a result of wider public sector pension reform, but negotiations on this will be separate from the reform of the police service. We will take a different approach to the pension reforms so the new schemes reflect the unique nature of the policing and all public sector workforces in Scotland. We will work in partnership with the Federation and other unions and staff associations to arrive at the right solution for public sector workers and taxpayers alike.
Chairman, you have said that the number of assaults on officers is a disgrace and I agree. As well as safeguarding officer numbers and not imposing the Winsor Package in Scotland, I also want to ensure the safety of officers. You carry out a vital public service, ensuring our communities are safe, and I will not tolerate bad behaviour against officers.
You risk life and limb in the service of the public. Yet you are routinely subject to a level of violence far beyond what most other people can expect. That is completely unacceptable. Officers who are subjected to violence often need treatment to restore them to full physical and mental health. This treatment is often provided by the victims themselves – police officers pay to the Benevolent Fund, and to their Treatment Centres. I don’t think it’s fair that police officers or anyone else who is a victim should have to pay.
I think it is right to expect criminals who assault police to contribute to payment to ensure the well-being of officers.
I was, therefore, asked by your former colleague and member of the Justice Committee John Finnie MSP – to examine ways to enable sentencers to order criminals who assault the police to pay into a fund to support their victims. This will not replace the existing arrangements for compensation direct to victims. Instead I have in mind a scheme to earmark financial penalties for wider forms of restitution. These might include treatment centres like Castlebrae, or the Police Benevolent Fund – which could use funding received to help victims. We are likely to have an opportunity to take forward legislation on this next year. In the meantime, I would welcome any views you have on such a scheme.
In conclusion, Chairman, I want to say to you and your members that I recognise fully that this is a challenging time to be a police officer. 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. I am confident we can work in partnership to face these challenges together, and continue to create the safer and stronger Scotland we all want to be 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 and local accountability and about delivering improved outcomes to Scottish communities. I value enormously the dedication, commitment and professionalism demonstrated throughout by officers and the wider police family 24 hours a day every day. 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 rely on each and every one of you to help ensure a smooth transition to the new service.
The Police Service for Scotland is a service, not a force, not a business. It is a service of the people of Scotland, for the people of Scotland. I look forward to working with you all in the future.
Edited by andyfofo, 17 April 2012 - 09:12 PM.