Scottish Police Authority, Police Scotland and Scottish Government meeting: January 2024

Minutes from the meeting between the Justice Secretary, the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority and the Chief Constable of Police Scotland on 9 January 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs
  • Martyn Evans, Chair of the Scottish Police Authority
  • Lynn Brown, Chief Executive of the Scottish Police Authority
  • Jo Farrell, Chief Constable of Police Scotland
  • Malcolm Graham KPM, Deputy Chief Constable, Police Scotland
  • Don McGillivray, Director of Safer Communities, Scottish Government
  • Murray McVicar, Police Division, Scottish Government (note)

Items and actions

Budget and new operating model

The Chair welcomed the budget settlement announced in the Draft Budget on 19 December.

He said that the objective for this year is to develop a new operating model for policing, and that the settlement enabled this to happen. He noted the work underway in Police Scotland around this and that he had asked the Chief Constable to bring the new model to the Scottish Policy Authority (SPA) Board in late summer/early autumn.

The board is looking for clarity around the priorities for policing. There is a commitment to move into a “second phase” of public sector reform, following the creation of the single national force in 2013. He outlined three important elements: the capacity of policing, the capability of policing, and the culture in policing following the publication of the HMICS review in December. The quality of local policing is key as this is the area on which the public place great emphasis. This will be a key focus in the work on the new model.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked the Chair and agreed that the settlement had been a positive one, given the very challenging overall budget position. She looked forward to seeing the new model, accepting that police had already made a considerable journey in public sector reform. Scottish Government would continue to support that journey – Ministers would need sufficient advance sight of decisions in order to understand and assist in that public support space.

The consultation on the proposed Police Scotland estate disposals was noted and the Chair said he had asked that this be brought to the Authority meeting in March for consideration and discussion. He was clear that this was work that needed to be focused on a public improvement approach, and ensuring that the police have the best and most effective estate, co-locating with others wherever possible. This needs to be done in tandem with other partners to ensure the best collective use of public assets. He noted that the Authority and SPA now has a strategic partnership with COSLA, agreed in 2023 and that he meets regularly with COSLA leaders and Convenors of the local scrutiny committees. He observed that the appetite of local government to collaborate with the police has increased, partly as a reflection of the need for both to efficiently manage resources.

Mental health

Progress is ongoing to deliver improvements in the support provided to the increasing numbers of people in mental health distress, where police are often seen as the service of first resort.

The first meeting of the working group chaired by SPA and including Scottish Government officials, Police Scotland and mental health representatives took place on Monday 27 November. In December, relevant Scottish Government Directors had sent letters to Health Boards informing Chief Executives of three workshops planned for early 2024 to help develop handover processes at A&E and reduce attendance by officers. There is a programme of activity over the coming months, with the Scottish Government, SPA and Police Scotland working closely to deliver this.

It was acknowledged that there is an imbalance between police officers and health staff around perceived risk, but that officers should be supported to see risk in a broader context (e.g. the implications for wider risk to the public of remaining in A and E for prolonged periods of time).

The Chair said that the public needed to be assured that there was a whole system approach to these matters. There is a lot of good practice but it is piecemeal. There is a need to move into the strategic space to engage with senior NHS leaders - there is a challenge to other partners in this space. The Cabinet Secretary noted the important role to be played by local authorities. The Chair agreed with this and highlighted the role of voluntary sector organisations. The Chief Constable also reflected on the key role played by PIRC.

The Director of Safer Communities added that, as well as writing to NHS Chief Executives on practical workshops as above, he was working with DCC Graham to set up a meeting with the Scottish Government Directors for Mental Health and Population Health to consider the strategic opportunities and challenges in this area. It is also helpful that police are working to define what they see as their role in dealing with mental health and distress calls/cases, in conversation with other partners to set some parameters for further engagement with health at a senior level.

The Cabinet Secretary summed up by saying that this had been an important and helpful discussion and that she would do whatever she could to help move forward this critical agenda and help support a collective response.


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