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Content update

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Policy in detail: supporting the police service in Scotland

Police Scotland is the single service responsible for policing across the length and breadth of Scotland. It is the second largest force in the UK after the Metropolitan Police.

Police Scotland took over responsibility for policing from the eight former police forces, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland in 2013.

The service is led by Chief Constable Iain Livingstone QPM.

It will sustain local policing in the face of budget cuts, while ensuring that all communities have equal access to specialist expertise and equipment whenever and wherever it is needed. it will also bring policing closer to communities, with a Local Commander for each area, local policing plans for every council ward and the opportunity for more councillors to have their say on policing in their area.

Police Scotland will be supported and held to account by the Scottish Police Authority which is in turn accountable to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government.

The Scottish Police Authority is the national body responsible for the governance of policing in Scotland. It will allocate resources to the Chief Constable and hold him to account for the policing of Scotland and the delivery of statutory functions.

The establishment of a single police service is designed to safeguard Scotland’s local policing from cuts, ensure all parts of the country have access to specialist equipment and expertise and bring the service closer to the communities it serves.

Strategic police priorities

We set the Strategic Police Priorities. The priorities are intended to incorporate the contribution which policing can make to achieve our purpose and national outcomes, and the related priorities within the Strategy for Justice. Consistent with our wider ambition for public services, these are strongly underpinned by the four pillars of public service reform – prevention, performance, people and partnership.

The Strategic Police Plan sets out the main objectives for the Scottish Police Authority and for the policing of Scotland. It supports the delivery of the outcomes described in the Strategic Police Priorities set by Scottish Ministers

The priorities in Police Scotland’s Annual Police Plan are aligned to the strategic police priorities set us and the strategic objectives outlined by the Scottish Police Authority in its three year plan. They are also informed by the local policing plans set at local authority and multi member ward levels.

Police circulars

Scottish Government policy and guidance on police issues are published through police circulars.

Police lectures

The James Smart Memorial Lecture was founded to perpetuate the name of a distinguished policeman who became the first Chief Constable of the City of Glasgow. The lectures have been given annually since 1972, rotating between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. Read the lectures.

Police complaints

The 'Complaints about the Police' leaflet explains what to do if you wish to make a complaint about a Scottish Police force, and how these are dealt with.

Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) conduct independent investigation into the most serious incidents involving the police. PIRC and the Scottish Government agreed a Governance and Accountability Framework document in October 2015.

Police reform

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 brought together the eight former police forces, the Scottish Police Services Authority and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency into a single Police Service of Scotland from April 1, 2013. More detail on the legislation behind the reforms.

Stop and search

On March 31, 2015, Police Scotland provided an update report on stop and search to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.  The Independent Advisory Group on Stop and Search produced its report in August 2015.  A supplementary report was published in January 2017.  Following the introduction of the new Code of Practice for Stop and Search in 2017, a six month review of the new Code has been carried out by Professor Susan McVie of the University of Edinburgh.