Police reform must not tip the balance

Last year some 97 per cent of the 2,600 Borderers who responded to a household survey said they felt safe in their own homes or when walking alone in their local area during the day.

That could, in part, be taken as a ringing endorsement of effective policing in a council area which, after all, has the fourth lowest crime rate in Scotland.

But another significant feature of the aforementioned research was that 64 per cent of those surveyed said they wanted to see more police visible in their local area.

That is not the kneejerk over-reaction of fearful Borderers watching riots in English cities from the comfort of their settees.

It is rather a pragmatic assessment of the importance of frontline policing in maintaining the relatively crime-free society we are privileged to enjoy in this region.

Early next month, Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill, unhindered by the strictures of minority government, will announce the creation of a single police force for Scotland, with Lothian and Borders, along with seven other constabularies, soon to be consigned to history.

Scottish Borders Council is right to opt out of the great gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands with which this impending decision has been greeted and, instead, to seek meaningful and detailed discussions about how to make the new regime work best for Borderers.

There is understandably much disquiet among the already morale-sapped 240 or so serving cops in the Borders and doubtless even more uncertainty among the ranks of the 60 civilian support staff.

We would strongly urge Mr MacAskill to eschew a broad brush approach and carefully consider the implications of his reforms on areas like the Borders.

Councillors must tell him that, in terms of visible policing, two-thirds of us want more, not less, and that the balance which currently makes nearly all us feel safe is too delicate to be tipped.