Monday, 31 January 2011

Idea 5: Create a single Scottish Police Service

Create a single Scottish Police Service but de-centralise decision-making to divisional command co-terminus with LA boundaries.

1. Localism. Any move to a national force must be balanced by a drive to localism, with the devolving out of functional responsibility to the local command level. This will be greatly assisted if local command divisions were co-terminus with Local Authority boundaries.

2. Independence. To safeguard against political interference there has to be legislation to properly define operational independence.

3. Rebranding. Brand the local police divisions with local names. So, for example, you would have a Glasgow police force; a Shetland police force and so on.

You can read more on this issue in an article Ross Martin (CSPP Policy Director) published - view here.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Idea 4: "Large Retail Levy needs reviewed, re-boxed and rebranded

Large Retail Levy needs reviewed, re-boxed and rebranded

From the Town Centre Regeneration Fund to the growing debate on the large retail levy, town centres have never had a higher political profile. This, for an issue that rarely features in most political parties manifesto’s in Scotland, is an achievement.

Indeed, it is now commonly accepted by all parties that town centres play an important role in securing Scotland’s economic recovery and also in providing creative spaces for the social interaction that makes for a vibrant community.

Yet this debate – triggered by the proposed Large Retail Levy – has become hugely politicised and divisive. This is a mistake. This is not a “them & us” debate between town centres or our out of town retail. We need to ensure that a rational and mature debate begins to ensure the issue doesn’t become a party political football in the budget process or the Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Any new initiative should be viewed as part of a coherent package that includes consideration of other policy ideas, such as out of town car parking charges, transitional rates relief for smaller sized traders, a review of existing planning policy and the sequential test and the small business bonus scheme. If seen in this context, and reshaped to avoid targeting a particular part of one identified sector, the 'big retail levy' could conceivably make a contribution.


Note: this information was based on a recent press release from the Scottish Towns Partnership (STP), an alliance of key representative bodies and experts. It was borne out of the *Centre for Scottish Public Policy's Scottish Towns Policy Group in 2009.

Ahead of the Scottish elections, the STP released a policy group paper on Scotland's Towns and Town Centres: Creating Confidence - Changing Futures, lead-authored by Professor Leigh Sparks with support and input from all members of the Group. A copy of the paper can be found here.

Idea 3: Local Government Graduate Programme

Every local authority in Scotland takes on one (or more) graduates for two years. The starting salary will be a minimum of £15,000 and the graduate will be exposed to a range of projects and placements in a council(s).

Funding: Scottish govt led and funded from LA budgets.

Why: (1) Skills. Scottish Local Govt has no entrance point for graduates. There is no mechanism in place for talented graduates to become the next generation of Local Govt leaders. They move to London or the EU. Inspired by the programme in England, a Times Top 100 Graduate employer.

And with 1 in every 3 job in Scotland residing in the public sector, Government have a duty to provide opportunities particularly in the islands where the public sector accounts for at least 70% of the economy, not to mention ensuring they do everything possible to tackle graduate unemployment (20% of new graduates are now unemployed) or graduate migration.

(2) Economic. This programme would be a hugely cost-effective buffer for local govt employment levels. Many are already stretched due to the budgetary constraints and will be letting people go, mostly through natural wastage. The LA would only need to contribute (at the most) £20,000 per annum. This is less than a consultant’s fee for one project.

In the long term the council are making a shrewd investment. For a modest sum there are recruiting ambitious and talented graduates who will provide the fresh blood - and future leaders - that Scottish local government needs. Individuals who are not deeply enmeshed in local government ways.

(3) How: Implementing the best of the NGDP down south, the programme would be run by the Centre (as a companion to our increasingly successful adopt an intern programme) and with the current (and former) bright lights in local government. The placements will be workplace based but will include quarterly seminars with other recruits and local government experts to discuss and share best practice

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Idea 2: Fourth Road Bridge Out; HSR Link In.

Scrap the commitment to build a 'fourth' road bridge and fund the Scottish end of High Speed Rail.

In austere times tough choices have to be made. Promises made in time of growth have to be reviewed again due to the turbulent economic times. Only yesterday the ONS published new data that showed public sector net debt was £889.1bn or 59.3% of GDP at the end of December 2010.

It is for this reason, and our belief that HSR2 would have a significantly greater economic impact, that we suggest scrapping the commitment to build a new fourth road bridge (or in Government parlance, " a replacement crossing") and diverting £1bn to start the High Speed Rail Line from Scotland. The other £1bn should be used for other transport projects that will boost economic growth.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Idea 1: Rearrange the School Year

Rearrange the school year into four terms of ten weeks each.

The current school year does not suit a well planned curriculum. It shuts out professional expertise that could enrich the learning experience and causes hard working parents unnecessary difficulty arranging childcare on ‘in-service’ days.

Four ten week terms, standard across all of Scotland, would allow better modular planning of courses; it would open up schools to accountants, anthropologists and architects to provide professional expertise; and it would remove the hassle to thousands of parents of finding childcare on all those Spring Mondays.

The Launch of 100 ideas for 100 days

For some Burns night is a celebration while for others it is simply another day. Of course, there is one small group who view it differently from the rest. At the CSPP we are using Burns night to kick-start our “100 ideas for 100 days” feature which will count down the days until the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May. Think of a healthy advent calendar with surprise policy contributions behind each door.

Every weekday we will tweet a new policy idea with links to this blog explaining the idea in more depth. Of course, it’s not an academic article so don’t expect long, cited efforts. Rather, expect short, snappy pieces that are designed to stimulate a dialogue with those interested in the future of Scottish politics. Love it or hate it, we want to hear from you.

Every week we'll email a summary of our ideas to our networks so if your not on the mail list get in touch -

Today's idea will be posted very soon.

Happy 100 days!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Ross Martin: May the national force be with us

Published in the Scotsman 12/1/11

If we are to move towards a single Scottish police service, then let us also strengthen local accountability

IN CASE of emergency, centralise! Merge eight into one. Create a single Scottish Police Force. The clarion call rings out. Save cash. Cut red tape. Never mind the thin blue line. These are siren voices rather than the sound of emergency assistance, rallying to the country's call in a time of national economic need. This blunt proposal is ill thought out, ill-judged and ill-timed.

This is a lazy call for cost efficiency. A proposition with evidence more scantily clad than the cast of the Sheridan show trial. Well-thought out change to Scotland's police service, along with the rest of the public service family, should have been a priority for the emerging Scottish Parliament. It wasn't. It never has been.

Tough decisions need strong political leadership. Constructive, sustainable change demands mature political debate, public reflection and professional refinement. What we are now all witness to is a belated rush to reform as the money well, out of which our MSPs have been drinking to excess, dries up. This game-changer demands a fresh policy tonic.

The tight fiscal discipline of the new UK coalition government is at last focusing MSP minds on the need to manage the demand for public services, rather than casually turning on the tap of ever-increasing supply. This driver for change should at least be welcomed, but the primacy of price over value should be much more rigorously interrogated.

Public-service reform can't be a slave to cost efficiency. Quality of provision and a desire to improve must drive any real reform, if the changes that are made to vital public services are to be publicly supported and economically sustainable. Public services should be exactly what they say on the tin. Public and a service. Scotland's police are an integral part of the family, serving the public.

The need for change is of course recognised all across the service, from Police Boards, to chief constables, through the managerial and supervisory ranks and even among Robert Peel's newest recruits. The patchwork of provision that was designed to mirror the former regional councils, long since gone, is simply not fit to walk the modern-day beat.

The role and function of Scotland's police service has changed dramatically since their last major review, undertaken well before the Scottish Parliament reconvened.

We hear precious little from our MSPs on how these differing demands should be reflected in training, in responsibilities, or in the design and delivery of this most vital of public services. Instead, we hear an uninspiring argument about numbers.

There is no policy debate about the primary role of police officers in protecting our communities, preventing or detecting crime. There are no ideas to test the value of feet on the street, rather than simply accepting a supply side case for yet more
men and women in uniform. There is no political discussion regarding the relative value in roles of police officers, for example as security guards around football matches or as nursemaids for drunken teenagers staggering out of irresponsible night clubs.

Instead of fighting about the site, style and cost of a new building for themselves, our first crop of MSPs should have been constructing their ideas for rebuilding the fine institutions that are our public services. England forged ahead with Police Community Support Officers, we never even debated an expansion of the fine Scottish tradition of Special Constables.

Local government was force fed a diet of school closures and the health service tasted the bitter pill of hospital rationalisation. There was no such structural change forced upon our outdated structure of eight police forces.

IN THE second parliament, when the UK government's authoritarian approach to youth disenchantment and disruptive behaviour was being enthusiastically endorsed with the adoption of the Asbo criminalising culture, there should have been a very different line of inquiry.

Instead of a continual obsession with policing their petty political in-fighting, they should have been debating how the police could prevent the real fighting that disfigures their town centres, all over the country, every weekend.

As we near the end of the Scottish Parliament's third term, there are a few signs of a more civilised approach, one where, to borrow an old phrase, we are tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. However, our legislature has just failed so lamentably, in the face of a standard of evidence that would have put the al-Megrahi case to shame, to tackle the primary cause of the majority of crime. Holyrood's collective inability to tackle the nation's drink problem has left all of our public services, from policing to the courts, from health to education, with a major hangover.

Instead of arguing with each other that black is white and vice versa, our MSPs need to add some genuine colour to the current monochrome debate on the reform of our public services in general and the future of Scottish policing in particular.

Where, for example, does policing fit within the developing picture of public service provision, being led by a number of localised initiatives?

When leading Scotland's second-largest police force through its last period of significant change, our most successful reform was to devolve decision-making to the divisional level.

By recognising the close working relationship that our local commanders had with each of the five local authorities within our combined force area we were able to invoke the spirit of the time, in preparation for the Scottish Parliament, and decentralise decision-making.

This power shift proved to be an engine for even greater energy, for more innovative change and, yes, for economic efficiency, too.

We also prepared the way for centralisation of resource-intensive, increasingly specialised areas of common policing such as forensics, serious crime fighting capability and training, with for example a major extension of facilities at the Scottish Police College. The delicate, democratic balance between the centripetal pull towards the centre and the centrifugal push out to the local level can carefully be extended.

SO, IF we are to move towards a single Scottish Police Service to gain the economic efficiencies of scale, then let us also strengthen local accountability by simultaneously devolving operational power out to the local level.

In so doing, we can recognise that decisions are best taken where they have greatest impact and create locally owned, operated and branded subsidiaries of this new single Scottish police force; for example, the Shetland Police, the Perth Police, the Edinburgh Police.

Just as our devolved divisional structure struck the balance then between central command and local control, so can a decentralised police service operate more effectively and with greater efficiency when scaled up across Scotland.

Technology, increased levels of specialist skill and, of course, the establishment of the Scottish Parliament enable stronger national strategic direction for all public services, but they also provide the basis for further devolution of power down to the local level.

It is, of course, possible to structure a single Scottish police service in such a way as to align divisional command units with each of the 32 local authority areas. This would allow for national, strategic objectives to be set, whilst maintaining the operational independence of the police, clear from political interference at all levels.

We can secure the gains of centralised efficiency, whilwe also building on the very strong partnerships that exist between the police and other members of the public service family at the local, democratically accountable level.

Thankfully, any real reform will need to win broad approval in the court of public opinion when the Scottish electorate sits in judgment on 5 May. By then, our MSPs will be facing the reality of the economic crisis and will not be able to hide behind the political perjury of denying the need for radical, lasting change. The incoming Scottish government, of whichever political hue, needs to gather the evidence and construct a solid case for reform.

Step forward the Christie Commissioners, your country needs you.

Ross Martin is policy director at the Centre for the Study of Public Policy and a former convener of Lothian and Borders Police Board