A decade of police reform

Martyn Evans reflects on the ten years since Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority were established.

Apr 3, 2023
Scottish Police Authority chair Martyn Evans

April 1, 2023 marked a decade since the establishment of Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. This milestone is an important juncture to reflect on how far we have come.

Crime, threat and harm has changed dramatically over the last decade. Crime in the public space has reduced while cyber-enabled crime and fraud is growing quickly and policing is moving more and more into a digital space. Policing is having to adapt and change to keep up.

The model of policing that has emerged over the last decade has placed confidence and trust in divisional commanders to deliver a police service in their area overseen by local scrutiny arrangements.

However, all services are delivered within a context of demanding national standards and five national strategic outcomes set jointly by the Authority and Police Scotland.

The Authority has strengthened connections immeasurably with COSLA and local authorities. Equally importantly, there has been a critical transformation in access to expert and highly specialist policing services available for all these local communities.

A new Strategic Partnership Agreement (2023) between the Authority, Police Scotland and COSLA marks an important milestone in the reform journey. The agreement describes our shared commitment to working together to serve, protect and enhance local communities. It sets out shared commitments to local scrutiny and accountability; prevention and early intervention; health and wellbeing; and resource and investment.

Policing in Scotland is subject to the most robust scrutiny arrangements with a national political, civic and media spotlight like never before. Accountable to the Authority, the Scottish Parliament, local authorities, inspectors, regulators and importantly the public.

Of course, reform has not been an easy journey. It has been extended, complex and at times disruptive. Financial constraints have impacted on the pace of transformation in particular.

Despite this, we can look back on the last decade with conviction knowing that the efforts and challenges have delivered a service that is better than anything that preceded it. It provides a solid foundation for reform and improvement to continue.

None of the last decade’s achievements would have been possible without the contribution and commitment of the officers and staff who have worked tirelessly to deliver a highly trusted public service – I want to pay tribute to them especially.

The very first line of assurance for the Scottish Police Authority is the quality and values of our police officers and staff. I have always been deeply impressed by the commitment and resilience of all those I have met in the service.

The undoubted challenges over the next decade are in good hands and I look forward to future and further developments in Scottish policing that continue to promote human rights, improve wellbeing and keep us safe from existing and emerging threats and harms.

Martyn Evans is chair of the Scottish Police Authority. He joined as a board member in June 2018 before being appointed chair in January 2021. He has wide-ranging executive and non-executive experience in the voluntary and public sectors. https://www.spa.police.uk

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