Bringing the police service to account

The eyes of Scotland will soon be on the Borders, when the region pilots a year-long project to see if the accountability of policing can really be improved by more local involvement.

Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill popped up in Galashiels this week to herald publication of the bill which will see the country’s eight police forces merged into a single entity, with the same route to be followed by our fire and rescue services.

We agree that at a time of austerity and facing such draconian financial restrictions, a single force is the best option if it protects the number of bobbies on Borders streets.

However, there has been widespread concern that any such radical shift away from the regional model of policing will see less public accountability.

But surely with a new local oversight committee made up of councillors, policing in the Borders will find itself more closely scrutinised than ever?

Whether councillors will be able to resist the temptation to meddle – in operational policing matters, for example – remains to be seen.

And the more sceptical among us may share the view that the overhaul is all part of a ploy by our SNP leaders to boost Scotland’s sense of itself as a distinct nation, separate from the rest of the UK, so easing the road to independence.

But we must hope that the catalyst for the changes was, first and foremost, a desire to protect officer numbers. To tamper with such a critical institution for purely political gain would be nothing short of criminal.