Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 3 informants report

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform: Year 3 national key informants report and summary of evidence.

Some wider implications of reform

Some of the wider implications of reform include partnership working, prevention and innovation. All of these elements were discussed with the national key informants in Year 1 of the evaluation and in Year 3 they were explored as thematic case studies in four geographical areas. Interviewees continue to emphaise the importance of the Christie principles [22] and suggested that both services have been ‘heavily influenced’ (1 SFRS interviewee) by them.

For SFRS there is a view that the management team ‘really believe in it’ (12 SFRS interviewee) and that their work is underpinned by the principles, particularly in relation to prevention. Police Scotland have embedded the principles in Policing 2026 although they identify some challenges given that a tendency for individuals to prioritise their own organisations first when faced with planning decisions:

‘I think people get the principles of it, but, when it comes to it, you always put your own organisation first, and things like community planning partnerships for example haven't had much .. It's all been a bit ‘optional’ (8 Police Scotland interviewee).

There is also concern that since reform responsibility sits at the centre of Police Scotland which has led on a local level to divisional commanders not having the same decision making or budgetary authority as their equivalents in other organisations, leading to an imbalance in relation to partnership working and meaningful collaboration [23] .

Partner organisations also identified the challenge in operationalising the Christie principles and the tensions between balancing immediate needs with the delayed benefits from prevention and early intervention work.

Partnership working

As has been discussed reform and the journey to transformation has had a significant impact internally for both services. It has also impacted on their external partnerships and ways of working with other organisations. In the year one report, there was a strong sense among the national key informants that significant opportunities had opened up for more effective partnership working as a result of reform.

Two years on, for SFRS reform is viewed as having improved partnership working, helping the service to build on its reputation as a ‘can do’ organisation (12 SFRS interviewee). The introduction of local senior officers in each local authority to help coordinate partnerships as well as diminishing budgets encouraging partners to share resources were both highlighted as important catalysts of partnership working. Another significant factor identified was as a national service SFRS felt they now have a louder voice and greater access to strategic level conversations than existed under legacy arrangements. An example of an innovative partnership initiative highlighted by interviewees was joint working with the ambulance service to respond to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests [24] .

Regarding Police Scotland there was a view that reform initially set back partnership working due to the initial focus on integration of the service. However, the view is that now the service has settled down, there is a move towards empowering partnership working in local areas. The local outcome improvement plans ( LOIP) [25] and locality plans are also suggested as leading to a stronger focus on working with partners and providing flexibility to make adaptions in local areas.

The partners’ perspective since reform for both service is that partnership working is now more purposeful with regular board meetings between partners taking place. Local leadership from local senior officers and divisional commanders is viewed as critical to how partnerships work. Both Police Scotland and SFRS are perceived by partners as willing to work jointly and engage with local priorities. Co-location is also identified as helping to encourage partnership working.


As the services plan for transformation, prevention is a key aim in their strategic documents including Policing 2026 [26] and SFRS Framework for Scotland 2016 [27] . The interviewees for SFRS discuss the shift to a prevention focus for the service. This is identified as a necessary shift due to the reduction in house fires and seen as part of a change in organisational culture away from focusing on reaction and response.

‘We've changed our aim, the number one aim is prevention as opposed to response. We've got to be there to respond but that prevention is far better than cure. So if we...if we adapt our home fire safety visits to safe and well visits, we can look at the things, we can educate, we can do some preventative work to stop people perhaps slipping, tripping and falling’ (12 SFRS interviewee)

Partners suggest SFRS are now more focused on vulnerability and are seen as a trusted service by the public who allow them access into their homes. There is also a view among the partners that SFRS are good at talking about their wider community safety role in public, which ensures there is an understanding by the public of their prevention role in the community.

Interviewees had differing views about the prevention role for Police Scotland. There is a view that they are still developing their strategy for prevention and thinking about how to ensure that it becomes an ethos rather than a series of ambitions (10 Police Scotland interviewee). There was also a view that they are not clear as to how combine enforcement with education and prevention. Partners suggested that the police are not good at talking about the preventative side of their role and as such the public believe the role is mainly enforcement and crime focused, even though day-to-day policing includes much preventative work. There was also a view from partners that the police need to work with other organisations more in a prevention role, with solutions being believed to exist across Community Planning Partnerships and the public and voluntary sectors, not just sitting with the police.

A model named THRIVE [28] (Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigation, Vulnerability and Engagement) was mentioned by police interviewees as a good example of their prevention agenda, where a tailored response based on risk and vulnerability is provided to those who come into contact with the police, prioritising the most vulnerable. [29] .


Innovation is another key aspect of the transformation agenda. The leadership of both services recognise that they do not have all the answers and that it is important to engage and empower the whole organisation in innovative practice to help them move into transformation.

The interviewees for SFRS discuss innovation in two ways: through practice and technology. With regards to practice, SFRS discuss the need to pull firefighters out of their comfort zone and work innovatively in partnerships and prevention, as well as their traditional role of following set rules in emergency situations.

‘That's a big cultural shift for us … going into an emergency situation…You know you need to follow the rules, you need to be part of that team…. So then in the new world of working in partnership in the new world of doing different things, you're asking people to behave differently. You're asking them to be innovative, so we've done a cultural audit, we've got a cultural action plan. We are listening to what people are saying in relation to these things. And we've still got a journey to go on it but there's encouraging signs that...because we have got an intelligent workforce, and we should never forget that, and don’t treat them like they're not…. we've got to send the signals out that we know you know, and we trust you and we encourage you’ (12 SFRS interviewee)

Having national capacity is believed to have provided an opportunity for SFRS to explore and introduce new technologies which are viewed as innovative. For example, Ultra High Pressure Suppression Systems which allows firefighters to put out a fire from outside the building quickly and more safely. The next phase of technological advance in the service is suggested to be introducing a new command and control IT system, which will link the control room with front line staff, for example, through the use of body cameras.

‘Having the national capability gives you the ability to look at innovation differently, to look at new technologies and how you might harness them, and then bring it in, as I say, consistently across the country’ (7 SFRS interviewee)

Some partner organisations, however, do question the level of Scotland-specific innovation in SFRS, suggesting that much of their work is happening not only across Scotland but also throughout the UK. However, this raises the question about whether innovative practice needs to be born of new ideas or whether it can simply be the revisiting of tried and tested methods, adapted for particular locations and/or issues. In regards to Police Scotland, one of the partners explains the importance of not discounting ideas because they have been tried before.

‘We need to be careful that, you know, we don’t... we don’t write things off as not being innovative just because they’ve been done before’ (2 partner interviewee)

The Year One report recommended that a strategic approach to innovation needed to be developed as the services moved into the transformation phase. For Police Scotland, Policing 2026 outlines innovation as one of its key areas of focus, with the strategy being viewed as a key driver for innovative practice in the service. Interviewees explain that Police Scotland were looking inwardly for the first 3-4 years of reform, but now they are actively seeking support from experts in innovation, particularly in academic institutions. Partners do highlight the challenges the service faces in delivering innovation on a local level and in evaluating innovative practice. From the partner’s perspective, innovation is about empowering leadership, culture and taking risks:

‘It's definitely about the culture of the leadership that says actually the command structure doesn't always know best, sometimes you kind of need to free people up at the local level to try different things, to actually learn something’ (3 partner interviewee)


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