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Other views

7. We would welcome any additional views you have on our strategy and how it will affect you, or any other person.

We would welcome any views you have.
The Scottish Conservatives welcome the opportunity to comment on Policing 2026. It is commendable that Police Scotland is offering its officers and staff, stakeholders and members of the public the opportunity to constructively comment on the next phase of the force’s transformation. It is our hope that the strategy is not a finite document but an evolving one, and that views expressed as part of this consultation will help to inform the strategic direction and culture of Scotland’s policing over the next decade. We would like to commend police officers and staff for the excellent work they do under difficult circumstances, both in the very nature of their occupation and as the result of a merger which has been beset with problems from the outset. It is clear from internal Police Scotland surveys that workforce morale is worryingly low and that increasing numbers of officers and staff do not view their present roles as long-term careers. This is not a sustainable situation for Scotland’s policing, and it is important to act now to mitigate these trends and to improve public confidence in the force. Policing in Scotland needs to change, which is why it is so important to get this strategy right. As such, we have focused the remarks which follow on two specific areas: IT infrastructure and rural policing. 1. IT infrastructure Police Scotland’s IT infrastructure is pivotal to the successful implementation of the 2026 strategy, which is intended to consolidate existing systems and improve workforce efficiency. An effective cyber capability is also becoming increasingly important as more online communities emerge and opportunities for cybercrime increase. We welcome the inclusion of both in Policing 2026, but believe there are potential obstacles to the realisation of a robust IT infrastructure which have not been sufficiently addressed. 1.1 Improving IT provision The ‘day in the life’ scenario of PC Sophie Robertson in the strategy document highlights the frustrations officers have with existing IT arrangements, which underscore why change is urgently required. However, it has been well-publicised that Police Scotland has encountered serious difficulties in the modernisation of its IT provision, with the defunct i6 project standing out in particular. The force is now significantly behind in its programme of IT modernisation and consolidation which pre-dated the April 2013 merger, yet it has set out an ambitious IT redevelopment project to be procured and completed as soon as possible to pave the way for further transformation. It also seems that this 10-year strategy is predicating tomorrow’s change on today’s technology, without horizon-scanning for emerging technologies that could improve productivity and efficiency or, conversely, facilitate crime and public disorder. 1.2. Budget for IT modernisation Policing 2026 is a long-term strategy with a short-term budget. We understand that a long-term financial strategy has been in the pipeline for some time at the Auditor General’s repeated recommendation, which will help to ensure the delivery of the 2026 strategy, and that the draft three and 10 year financial plans will be finalised after the consultation has closed. However, past experience of public sector transformation indicates that it is an expensive undertaking with fluctuating costs and extensive delays. It would therefore be helpful to have an indication of the anticipated costs of IT change over the projected 10-year timeline. 1.3. Recommendation Improved IT infrastructure is the linchpin of Policing 2026, but it is also subject to a number of changing variables. To ensure public confidence in the process of IT modernisation – which was shaken after 2 the collapse of the i6 contract – it is important to explain not just what Police Scotland is hoping to achieve on this front, but how it expects to deliver it successfully. The strategy also needs to demonstrate flexibility towards emerging technologies, which may displace the practices to improve efficiency and productivity outlined in the document. 2. Rural policing The slogan which features prominently in the Policing 2026 document is “serving a changing Scotland” in the context of changing community demographics and demands. There is recognition that “Scotland’s communities are continuing to diversify” and that Police Scotland “…must continue to design [its] services around citizen and community needs”. We very much agree with both points, which is why we are concerned that place-based policing – particularly in rural areas – has not been addressed in the strategy. 2.1. Policing practices in rural Scotland According to the Scottish Government, rural Scotland accounts for nearly a fifth of the population, which has continued to grow at a faster rate than the rest of Scotland over recent years.1 Rural areas have specific policing needs, with widely dispersed population centres, remote communities which can be difficult to access, lower levels of connectivity and a thriving agricultural sector, which has implications for safeguarding livestock, farm machinery, fuel tanks and tools. The totality of these considerations presents particular challenges to policing practice in rural Scotland, yet Policing 2026 is advocating a one-size-fits-all approach that relies heavily on technology – which could be problematic in rural areas with low digital connectivity. 2.2. Diminishing policing resources in rural communities While we have welcomed Police Scotland’s efforts to promote rural crime prevention in partnership with stakeholders over the past two years, the closure of police stations in some rural areas suggests the force is reducing its physical presence in countryside communities, with a commensurate impact on local policing. Policing 2026 indicates this will be a long-term trend, with the introduction of ‘Police Hubs’ to replace ‘Public Police Offices’, while the Chief Constable has separately confirmed the number of officers is likely to reduce by about 400 over the next few years. Given the statistical levels of crime in rural communities are generally lower than in urban areas, we are particularly concerned that Police Scotland resources will be diverted to urban Scotland to the detriment of rural communities. 2.3. Recommendation Policing 2026 emphasises that communities “need to trust the decisions that will be taken about the future direction of policing.” Rural communities have been concerned about the trajectory of local policing for some time, yet this strategy in its present form does very little to alleviate those concerns. When the Scottish Conservatives raised rural communities in the context of the 10-year strategy with the Chief Constable, he responded that cities are not addressed either – but we know that policing policies and initiatives formulated at a national level are often done so through the prism of experience in an urban context.2 We therefore urge Police Scotland to examine how this strategy will impact rural Scotland and to address the specific policing needs of this growing demographic in the document itself. Redacted text MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice

About you

8. What is your name?

Douglas Ross MSP

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Scottish Conservatives