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Angus Fears for Representation of Rural Areas Under New National Police Force

by Graham Brown, The Courier.

Tayside's police convener has claimed the success of Scotland's new single force could ''rise or fall'' on the strength of the body which will oversee its operation.

Angus councillor Ian Mackintosh said the national police authority would require ''101% commitment'' and he has echoed fears raised by the rural authority that areas like the one he represents could be short-changed in terms of representation.

Mr Mackintosh has been joined by Angus Council leader Bob Myles in warning that the new force may not be scrutinised effectively if ministers are given too much power over appointments.

The Kirriemuir councillor heads the Tayside Joint Police Board, comprising representatives from the three constituent authorities, and made his comments during a council discussion of the district's response to a government consultation document on reforming police and fire services in Scotland.

Elected members gave an official reply which included a comment that the proposal to have 11 members on the Scottish Police Authority was ''not considered sufficient to maintain close links with local government''.

It said: ''If the new functions of the authority are the same as the existing joint boards, the 11 members are not going to be in a position to fully represent the diverse communities and the wide-ranging services currently offered by the police.

''It is suggested that the local authority membership requires to be increased.''

It added: ''Regarding the specific skills, expertise and experience, the main contribution by councillors is their knowledge of their communities as well as their interest and commitment to an efficient and effective force.

''If that force is to remain accountable to local communities, there must be strong links with local councillors who are the elected representatives of those communities.''

Mr Mackintosh told the full council meeting in Forfar: ''There is no merit in harping back to what might have been because we have the decision and we must work with that.

"Whether it is the right or wrong decision, time will tell. But if this is just going to be another function of the council and another body for people to be on then I think we could face real problems.

''This will be dealing with a single force and therefore the demands will be very much more significant, and require people that are devoting 101% to the board.''

He added: ''It is not as if they are starting off with something which is bad, but if they don't get this right it could be a mess.

''At the moment the Tayside joint board meets across the area and you are setting aside a morning or whatever to attend those meetings.

''That will not be the case for the Scottish Police Authority — it will involve people travelling from all over Scotland and it is hugely important that the Scottish Government gets this right. If they do not the single police force will fail.''

Mr Myles said: ''This is a creature being created that we didn't want, but it is here and we have to do our best to ensure accountability and the protection of local services.

''As far as the make-up of the board is concerned, it is crucial not to have people who are seen as placed men who are there just to say yes to the justice minister.

''We've been landed with this system and I think it's purely for control measures rather than efficiency, but we have to try and ensure the control is from the governing body and not from above.''



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