BBC BLOGS - Blether with Brian
« Previous | Main | Next »

Police funding

Brian Taylor | 15:47 UK time, Wednesday, 19 May 2010

An intriguing taster of things to come in the Holyrood statement this afternoon by the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

He was facing potentially awkward questions as to whether the Scottish government sought to influence chief constables with regard to the timing of the recruitment of new police officers.

In the event, Mr MacAskill's "in your face" approach comfortably deflected criticism.

Labour's Richard Baker essayed an exercise in voluble indignation, drawing ridicule from the Minister.

Bailie Bill Aitken, sadly departing this parish at the next election, was more contained.

After all, it was his party which struck a deal with the SNP over recruiting one thousand more officers.

Robert Brown for the Liberal Democrats was gently satirical as to whether the Minister was seeking to blame future cuts on the UK government.

Specific cash

Perish, said Mr MacAskill, the thought.

The minister strenuously defended himself and his civil servants for insisting that specific additional cash for police forces must be spent on recruitment to meet the 1000 target.

With that, he has a point. Ministers cannot meet a manifesto pledge if those on the ground divert the resources elsewhere.

Yes, it raises issues about autonomy. The minister argued that police chief constables should remain entirely in control of operational matters - but that the government was entitled to insist upon a promise, endorsed in a parliamentary vote, being delivered.

Incidentally, none of the above features the really intriguing bit. That came in the Minister's sundry assertions re future plans.

One thousand extra police officers had been promised. One thousand extra police officers would be delivered - with that level sustained through to the Holyrood elections.

The Scottish government planned "budget stability" in the current year - that is, they will defer any pain which follows from Monday's announcement from the Chancellor of £6bn emergency cuts.

'Not guilty plea'

Beyond that, though, the minister could offer little in the way of reassurance. That was dependent on "the full impact of the Westminster cuts to come".

Turning his (operationally autonomous) Taser to full power, he blamed Labour for creating the economic mess together with the Tories and LibDems for planning cuts.

Sounded like an advance plea of not guilty to me. Or, at the very least, a plea in mitigation. Perhaps he hopes for a not proven verdict.

Like much heard in the Scottish courts, there was still an air of remote unreality about today's exchanges.

They were still predicated upon protecting public services, upon reassuring the voters - with hints about the pain to come relegated to the margins.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.