I have been sitting on this story for nearly two weeks now. I'd meant to blog it the day I heard it but I didn't have access to wifi. Then I didn't want it go get missed in the holiday weekend. Then I came home from holiday and became ill. Then there was another holiday weekend. I think it's worth the wait, though.
I spent a lovely day sticking labels on election addresses for Christine Jardine,our candidate for Inverness and Nairn. She told me about a hustings she'd attended where the SNP's Fergus Ewing had said that whatever happened to the structure of the Police Force, there "would still be a police presence in the Highlands."
How very generous of the SNP.
I mean the Highlands only covers a few thousand square miles.
What will happen if there's a single national police force - a couple of bobbies in Inverness and the rest moved to Glasgow or Edinburgh? I wouldn't imagine it would be quite that extreme, but Fergus' vague answer showed up the flaws and uncertainties in the SNP's policy.
Kenny MacAskill, their justice secretary, from Edinburgh, was all over the idea of a single, national force earlier this year. Admittedly he wasn't drooling over the idea quite as much as Labour's Richard Baker, but he said that "a strong case" had been made for it. Later on, Holyrood Magazine reported how he had said that the status quo was no longer tenable and a regional model wouldn't save enough money.
His enthusiasm for the idea isn't reflected in the SNP manifesto, which is very woolly on the subject. It says the number of police forces will be reduced. To what exactly? You might be forgiven for thinking that the reason the manifesto is so waffly is because they know fine that 7 out of 8 Chief Constables, the overwhelming majority of Scottish Police Federation members, and many local communities the length and breadth of Scotland oppose the idea of a single force. They think that being evasive and waffly will get them through the election.
It's simply not good enough. The idea of 3000 officers being lost and £92 million wasted on merger which would leave police without local control and accountability is very worrying for people.They don't want to see policing in their town or village being determined by a Chief Constable in the city and a justice secretary. When it comes to law enforcement you want to spread the power out a bit.
Of the main 4 parties, the Liberal Democrats alone oppose a single national police force. Tavish Scott has championed this issue instinctively from the minute the single force was first mentioned. The Facebook page has had over 400 new "likers" over the past week. Tonight's poll boost, showing us up 3% in the constituency vote and 1% in the regional vote shows that people are liking what we are saying on the subject and our other policies such as abolishing the Council Tax for the poorest pensioners.
It is incredible, though, that Fergus Ewing, the minister for Community Safety can't be more specific about his own party's policing policy. We are entitled to ask what he was trying to hide at that Age Scotland hustings meeting.