Police Scotland hits back at criticism from the media and politicians

Stephen House urges Scottish Government not to "turn back" on national force

POLICE SCOTLAND has launched a public relations offensive in response to mounting criticism of the national police force.

The police force's communications staff have been countering critical media coverage, contesting the veracity of stories published by various outlets including the BBC, The Herald, The Ferret and CommonSpace.

Kevin O'Hare, Police Scotland's Corporate Communications Manager, contacted CommonSpace to complain about the reporting of difficulties faced by the force in establishing its new IT system i6. O'Hare told CommonSpace that other news outlets including The Herald and investigative news website The Ferret had also been contacted.

O'Hare complained that the original article, which reported that a vital component of the i6 system had been taken off the market thus causing difficulties for Police Scotland, stated that the component was software rather than hardware. A follow up email stated: "This is a hardware issue not a software issue".

O'Hare also complained about the use of the phrase "Police Scotland's national CCTV network", as he said that CCTV in Scotland is controlled by local councils who liaise with Police Scotland.

He also insisted that i6 and CCTV were completely separate issues, though when asked by CommonSpace if there would be any interface between CCTV and i6 he said he did not know.

A police report which is the subject of an investigation by The Ferret states that Police Scotland has responsibilities for funding, operating and maintaining CCTV controlled by local authorities.

The report presents the national CCTV system as a mix of local CCTV operations, with some jointly controlled by local authorities and Police Scotland, some controlled and managed by Police Scotland and only one controlled by a local authority with limited police involvement.

O'Hare stated that there was not, as reported in several media outlets including the BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Record and The Times, a PS10m shortfall in plans to update CCTV in Scotland.

The follow up email states "There was no plan in the CCTV report and therefore no PS10m shortfall."

The police report chronicles significant problems with the existing CCTV systems in Scotland, that they are outdated. It then provides approximations of the cost of replacing the systems. Those costs were redacted in a copy of the report received by The Ferret after a freedom of information request. An unreacted version of the report led The Ferret to the PS10m figure.

The countering of negative news coverage came asPolice Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House made a joint statement with Vic Emery, chairman of the Scottish Police Authority countering a report made by former SNP leader Gordon Wilson which heavily criticised Police Scotland and called for it to be federalised into four separated forces.

House and Emery's statement included appeals for the Scottish Government to remain committed to a national police force "We were clear from the start that this would be a long term journey of reform and change.

"All journeys have points where it looks more tempting to turn back than go on.That would risk us failing to realise many of the benefits of a single service that are as yet only partly realised. It is a temptation we should resist" they added.

Police Scotland has become embroiled in a number of high profile controversies including widespread use of stop and search powers, allegations that a secretive unit within Police Scotland has been spying on journalists and the failure of the police to respond to a car crash that killed two people for three days.

Picture courtesy of Linzi