Two former officers set out the case for or against Scottish Independence.
The future of Scotland hangs in the balance as the country approaches a referendum over whether or not to become independent on September 18. While the country already has devolved government when it comes to law and order, the vote would still potentially have an impact on policing, and societal, issues.
Allan Burnett QPM is a former police officer who served in both Strathclyde Police and Fife Constabulary. He retired in 2010 in the rank of Assistant Chief Constable as ACPOS Coordinator of Counter Terrorism. He writes about why he believes independence is the way forward:
On September 18 Scotland goes to the polls to decide whether to become independent. The No campaign have been operating what they themselves termed ‘Project Fear’.
The real evidence is that Scotland is a wealthier economy per head than the rest of the United Kingdom (rUK), and France and Japan. With a Yes vote we can unlock the talent and energy which I regret is unable to flourish under the Westminster system, where the establishment elite tend to help themselves rather than the people.
Policing in Scotland is already a devolved issue, and provides an internationally admired effective and efficient service supported by the Scottish public.
In the UK the gap between rich and poor is ever widening. This trend leads to disadvantage – an underlying factor in criminality, which the police have to deal with. An independent Scotland plans to close that gap, sharing the wealth of the country more fairly.
The Scottish Government, unlike the UK Government, values its police. This is reflected in its commitment to collective bargaining and a Police Negotiating Board in Scotland. A police officer in England and Wales will earn £20k less during the first 10 years of service than one in Scotland, and potentially £250k less over their career. Police officer numbers have also been increased and then preserved in Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament is very accessible, allowing a spectrum of police views to be heard and influence legislation. A current example is shared support for minimum pricing of alcohol, designed to improve health and reduce crime. Meantime, the UK Government, in bed with corporate interests, refuses to protect its people.
Scots Law has always been different from that in the UK. Dealing across the different legislatures will be no different, and Scotland’s commitment to working with colleagues from rUK, and further afield, will be undiminished. The border with rUK will be open as always and we will be solid partners in shared policing priorities, from countering terrorism to missing persons.
We have no plans to introduce police and crime commissioners, and expect a massive turnout of the electorate on September 18!
Former police officer Graeme Pearson MSP is Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Justice. He served as Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and Director General of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
He writes about why he believes a ‘no’ vote would be better for Scotland:
In a world as complex, fast moving and at times dangerous in terms of transnational threats it seems to me the United Kingdom is better protected as a single entity in terms of our external relations.
Scotland has best of all worlds now in that we control our domestic issues of law and order, health and education services (amongst other things) whilst linking directly with Westminster in respect of international relations, defence, economy and pensions to deliver the best results in terms of making our voices heard across the world.
In respect of security an independent Scotland would require to negotiate relationships with not only the United Nations, The European Community, Europol but also with the remainder of the United Kingdom in terms of access to intelligence, links with security services and the opportunity to share services and the likes.
The membership of the Five Eyes community relies heavily on not solely alliances but also what each nation can bring to the table. In Scotland’s case it would not be certain an independent Scotland would be part of that arrangement. Particularly given the Scottish Government’s approach to nuclear weapons, the Lockerbie bomber, Defence Forces and our declared ambitions to introduce different approaches to issues such as immigration. All these issues and more would be brought into the mix when deciding partnerships in the future.
The knock on impacts for the police will be significant. Currently through ACPOTAM, Crime committee and many other ACPO committees Scotland feeds into the British debates on law and order and Security matters.
As part of the UK we have first order links to the Security Services, GCHQ, the NCA, UK databases, criminal records, DVLA, the Firearms database and many more sources of information and intelligence. Again post-independence there will be no guarantee that such links could be effectively maintained between nation states and the implications for data protection and security in respect of the authorised use of intelligence would on occasions face compromise.
The challenges for separate administration to resolve these new arrangements will be significant, time consuming and costly. I believe we face more important challenges together reducing the opportunities for international organised crime and terrorism to impact on our communities.
Scottish Independence: The policing debate