Officers question ‘unsustainable’ reform
Police Scotland’s officers are concerned that the savings required of the force will not be achieved despite being “on the cusp of achieving true transformation”.
Efficiency targets have led to financial decisions being made that may not have improved the service, interviewees told an evaluation of police and fire reform.
Meanwhile, partner agencies suggested the force may struggle to balance its budget in the next three years unless it starts working more closely with other first-line responders.
The report also raised concerns about the number of officers and staff who claim to be experiencing change fatigue.
It said: “Police Scotland interviewees highlighted the challenges in realising efficiencies. Several respondents suggested that the savings required were unsustainable.
“Partners also stated that savings that had been made had led to inefficiencies; for example, police officers are backfilling support.”
The study, carried out by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, was based on interviews with senior personnel across the police and fire services.
Representatives from both Police Scotland and the fire and rescue service felt their organisation was on the cusp of achieving true transformation.
Both agencies also expressed the view that change was necessary due to the impact of austerity measures.
However, Police Scotland interviewees claimed that early stages of the reform process were hampered by a lack of skills among many senior leadership figures.
Others believed officers were frustrated by their apparent inability to shape changes being implemented as part of the Policing 2026 ten-year reform strategy.
Researchers heard the merger of the previous eight forces in 2013 has left divisional commanders with less decision-making freedom and authority over budgets than their colleagues in other public sector agencies.
However, the respondents also recognised that investment in change managers has provided much-needed expertise.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “We are determined to further develop a positive culture which protects the wellbeing of everyone working in Police Scotland and we continue to engage with the workforce.”