Police Scotland and Scottish Government meeting: May 2024

Minutes from the meeting between the First Minister and the Chief Constable of Police Scotland on 16 May 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • John Swinney MSP, First Minister
  • Jo Farrell, Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Alan Speirs, Deputy Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Don McGillivray, Director of Safer Communities, Scottish Government

Items and actions


The First Minister welcomed the Chief Constable and DCC Speirs to Parliament.

Mental health and policing

The First Minister noted the Chief Constable’s reported comments in the media regarding mental health demand on policing. He noted that he was keen for public sector organisations to disrespect boundaries in order to deliver better outcomes. The Chief Constable provided assurance that police were not pulling up the drawbridge and she did not foresee a withdrawal from this area in the way some forces in England have done. She does, however, believe action is needed to deliver the right response for citizens. She had visited the Neuk project and was also aware of positive models in Hamilton and Glasgow, and she was keen to see broader progress across Scotland. Don McGillivray (DM) noted that a range of collaborative work was underway across health and justice policy in partnership with police and NHS Boards.

Criminal justice system

The Chief Constable raised her concerns about the poor victim experience in the criminal justice system and the impact of the underlying inefficiencies on police time. She is keen to encourage a greater degree of system thinking across criminal justice. The First Minister provided reflections on his experience scrutinising the Victims, Witnesses and Judicial Reform Bill. He agreed that, based on evidence he had heard in the Criminal Justice Committee, victim experience was often poor and too variable based on the individual capability of frontline staff. He noted ongoing initiatives including the Summary Case Management pilot, which seemed to be producing positive benefits, and DM also noted the forthcoming rollout of digital evidence sharing capability. The Chief Constable agreed these were helpful but greater pace and scale was needed to deliver impact across Scotland, and she highlighted that leadership and a shift in behaviour rather than money was key to progress. 

Workforce and operating model

The Chief Constable highlighted that there is a range of work underway to reshape the operating model and workforce. She described this as developing Phase 2 of Police Scotland, building on the first 10 years.

Ethics and conduct

The Chief Constable said that there had been a constructive meeting with Scottish Government officials that morning on the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill. Police are largely content with the Bill but want to see associated changes in secondary legislation to speed up the process for those officers there is clear evidence against. The First Minister asked for further briefing on this issue. Action: DM.

Hate crime

The First Minister asked where things stand with policing of the new Hate Crime Act. DCC Speirs advised that the first few weeks had been very demanding, largely due to a high volume of spurious complaints. Most of this had been managed in call centres and had limited impact on frontline police officers. In recent weeks, things have rapidly settled down to a business as usual level. Although reported incidents are approximately double what they had been previously, it is well known that hate incidents have been significantly underreported. DCC Speirs highlighted that Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee were the main areas where incidents were concentrated and that race and disability make up the majority of incidents. There are still some spikes at weekends around football matches, but many such complaints were anonymous or came from outwith Scotland. The Chief Constable noted that the recording of non-crime hate incidents had been one focus of political debate and that new guidance has been developed for officers to support decision-making, ensuring a proportionate response with a focus on vulnerability.


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