The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has been a largely anonymous organisation since inception. Press coverage restricted to budgetary issues, appointment of a Chief Constable or even removal of one with the ignominious departure of Phil Gormley from that post. Yet it’s a vital body and one where it was always anticipated it would have more than just a role in budget scrutiny.
Money or the lack of its been the real pressure for them and Police Scotland. With most funds going on the wage bill it’s noticeable. But there’s much more that the organisation’s capable of and was expected to do.
Scotland forsook elected Police and Crime Commissioners. That’s something I still think was wise to do. Whilst some south of the border do a reasonable job many more fail miserably. All at a far from insignificant cost. Besides as with elected health boards it’s a recipe for special pleading and particular interest groups, rather than overall scrutiny. Tales from England tell of Commissioners returned on zealous rural crime tickets which whilst necessary in itself, has proven catastrophic for urban areas that were always more blighted.
SPA was meant to address more “political” aspects of policing. Whatever some think the Justice Secretary cannot and doesn’t direct the force which’s why an independent body was established. “Political” issues in policing are those that affect communities not in the law which is for Parliament but its enforcement which is operational. Stop and search’s a clear example of that.
That mostly predated SPA’s establishment but it’s the likes of that they’re meant to address. That can be by supporting police actions or challenging them. All as they see fit but reflecting the views and mood of the public they’re there to represent.
The issuing of fixed penalty tickets for Covid offences, disorder in Glasgow city centre and even actions instructed by the Crown Office against Independence supporters have all caused concern for sections of the community. Oversight on that is also for the SPA. It’s time they had a profile and came out of the closet. Its badly needed by police and communities.