President’s Address to ASPS 2014 Annual Conference

“Building Capacity – Fit for the Future”

Conference, honoured guests and Members of the Association, it is my great pleasure to deliver my fifth and final President’s address at this, our 90th Annual Conference. It has been an honour and a privilege to be associated with ASPS for 12 years and be your full time president over the past 4 years.
Conference during my term of office we have influenced participated in and delivered the biggest change that Scottish Policing has ever seen. It has been challenging, rewarding and extremely satisfying to see what has been achieved over this period. Colleagues make no mistake your modern, progressive thinking and ability to influence change has made a real impact over the piece.
ASPS has a strong voice, real credibility, significant influence and a profile in policing which must continue to evolve in line with our role as the operational leaders of the service. We are often described as the voice of reason in Scottish Policing.
I am delighted that we are joined again by Mr MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, who has agreed to address the Conference and share with us his thoughts after one full year of Police Scotland, as we all look forward to more challenges and opportunities ahead.
I must commend our Chief Constable, Sir Stephen House for leading us through the establishment of Police Scotland and getting to where we are today with a strong focus upon service delivery, operational policing, performance and continued support for ASPS.
We will hear later from Graeme Pearson, MSP, and Shadow Spokesperson for Justice, as he delivers the Jack Urquhart Memorial Lecture.   I would also like to thank Dorothy Urquhart and her family for the continuing support for this important part of our Conference.

I am delighted to extend a very warm welcome to colleagues in ASPS, members of our sister Staff Associations, our many other distinguished guests and Conference sponsors.
Conference, I must warmly congratulate our incoming President Superintendent Niven Rennie who has shown a significant level of commitment and contribution to ASPS over many years. I know Niven will continue to drive ASPS forward with member’s needs, interests and aspirations at the forefront of his presidency.
What have we got right?
I will start by expressing my gratitude and respect for my fellow Superintendents. You have provided outstanding operational leadership, delivering excellent policing services across Scotland while meeting the added pressure of Police reform and ensuring continuity of excellent policing services to our communities during the first 14 months of Police Scotland.
ASPS restructured in advance of April 2013 which saw 3 full time District Chairs being elected in the North, East and West to support, assist and update members in the early and very demanding stages of Police Scotland. The contribution of Carol Forfar our General Secretary and the efforts of Craig Suttie and Gavin Buist over many years are also a recognised part of our success. Carol has stated an intention to retire later this year as has Craig. Both have been stalwarts within ASPS over many years and I owe them both a debt of gratitude for their support, encouragement and wise counsel. Gavin recently retired and has picked up a police adviser post in the Middle East and he too made a significant contribution.
Turning to Police Scotland it has been clearly demonstrated that:

  • Ten organisations and agencies can be merged into one.
  • Operational policing was very much business as usual and keeping people safe particularly the most vulnerable was a strong focus from the outset.
  • Management delayering has been achieved and a smaller more focussed Executive Team is in place.
  • There has been a removal of postcode policing, improved capacity and capability of specialist policing.
  • Resources are deployed with more flexibility and there is now equitable access to specialist services across Scotland.
  • We now deploy more rapidly to Major Incidents – the Shetland Helicopter crash, the Mikaeel Kular murder and Clutha Bar disaster to name but three very sad but high profile and demanding incidents over the period.
  • Police Officer numbers have been maintained and savings have been made although I will return to that later.
  • 32 local policing plans and 353 multi-member ward plans were produced.
  • Command experience, development and promotion opportunities have increased.
  • Public confidence heightened, performance maintained and a strong focus on operational policing. Grip as it is often referred to.

What could we have done better?
ASPS clearly found challenges engaging with members over the past 14 months and despite full time representation it has become clear in recent times we need to find new and innovative ways of working looking at structure and indeed exploiting technology to ensure members are kept abreast of developments.
Turning again to Police Scotland.
Internal and external communications were a common theme. Changes to Public Counters, Control Rooms, the use of stop and search and the deployment of firearms and mounted branch all attracted adverse comment to varying degrees. The need to improve corporate communication, staff engagement and involvement was evident at times. ASPS clearly participated in the public debate on these issues but we were at times on the back foot due to a lack of information exchange from Police Scotland.
The early tri-partite governance tensions were frustrating and fortunately appear to have settled down. That said, the SPA, HMIC, local Scrutiny Committees and the Police and Justice Committees all need to move forward and build processes that provide meaningful governance and scrutiny. This is essential to provide the checks and balances that are needed.
A perception of centralisation to central teams and squads to the detriment of local policing has been an issue which rightly or wrongly attracted negative comment.
Conference, people are our most important asset and the loss of valued police staff has been amongst the biggest challenges. Whilst ASPS will always have reservations about the
back filling the need to have the right person, in the right job, with the right skills, at right cost at right time as part of a Balanced workforce continues to be our view.
Travel, relocation expenses and postings continue to be a matter of concern and the JNCC is only now providing some meaningful outcomes. Much of this is caused by a lack of understanding of how consultation and negotiation should be carried out as part of the JNCC and PNB Scotland. While time has been spent on getting Police Scotland established the effort on relocation, transport, allowances and expenses has simply not kept pace. This is not good enough.It is not necessary or desirable for members of staff to subsidise policing or travel excessive distances or time to a place of work.
Providing on call services is voluntary and something that members see as necessary, are not paid extra for and is also something that they want to do. However members also want an acceptable work life balance. This morning conference heard some of the results of our Resilience Survey. We conducted such a survey in 2013 and repeated it again this year to ensure we had a benchmark. Many of the findings are the same.
Clearly we need to work with Police Scotland to review the survey and look at working hours, on call, travel arrangements, and management styles and we will seek an early meeting with the Chief Constable to see how we can develop an action plan to address the issues.
Colleagues the one size fits all for Divisions Command Teams needs to be revisited as there is a concern amongst members that some are becoming too lean. Do we have enough Superintendents? Are Superintendents deployed in the best way? How does the organisation cope with abstractions and what pressure does that place on other colleagues? We need to examine operating models to ensure there is resilience and flexibility at Divisional level and within all the key departments such as the SCD and OSD. I do not want to see colleagues being burned out by the style and culture of the organisation.
What do we still need to do?
Conference, ASPS needs to develop and evolve in a hopefully more stable and sustainable policing environment. This year will see a new President, General Secretary and 3 District Chairs. The Chief Constable continues to support ASPS and has agreed in principle to recent proposals from the Executive Committee which will see a revised model being put in place.
In effect the 3 full time District Chairs will not be replaced although the positions will continue. As we move forward we will have a full time President and Vice President. We will have a seconded officer to undertake research and development and the Executive Committee will have a further 6 members to ensure we obtain the range of professional views moving forward.
Turning to Police Scotland there is a need to deliver a performance management approach not one of target compliance as there continues to be concerns that we are hitting the target but missing the point.
Conference we need to achieve a culture of trust and verification. We supported the need for operational grip but presenteeism, working excessive hours, traveling significant distances to work continue and excessive oversight is a matter of concern The Chief Constable is legally required to comply with the duty that the regulations place on every organisation, subject to certain exemptions.
Regulations are there for a purpose. It is to protect people from the adverse effects on health that arise when people work excessive hours. We also need to look carefully at sickness
levels to identify trends and develop an action plan to deal with stress in the workplace. Colleagues our recent survey identified that a significant proportion of our members are not taking their rest days or annual leave allocation.
We have no desire to deal with the aftermath of a tragic incident as a result of a member working excessive hours and travelling excessive distances and for an excessive amount of time. I fully support the Code of Ethics of Police Scotland: Fairness, Integrity, Respect underpinned by Human Rights.
I call on the Chief Constable to adopt a more preventative approach to Working Time compliance, which we will closely monitor. Similarly, the use of VC and other technology to reduce travel needs to be a higher priority.
Conference, community engagement is a key part of local policing and the Police and Fire Reform Act is not prescriptive in terms of how this should happen. We supported this approach. Local Authorities have a pivotal role to play and whilst there may be different approaches adopted across Scotland there is a need to ensure consistent models exist across the 32 to Local Authority areas which allow meaningful engagement, supportive and intrusive local scrutiny of policing.
We need to work with Police Scotland to improve internal consultation and engagement. Positive steps have been taken but work still needs to be done as there is a lack of clarity at times in terms of staff association involvement in the decision making process and this at times may be due to a lack of understanding of legal position in some quarters.
The service needs to deliver a modern IT infrastructure and whilst we have seen reorganisation and rationalisation over the last 14 months the real reform will come when we take delivery of new systems. With i6 being progressed I am positive about the future but a replacement for Airwave needs to be taken forward and mobile data still needs to be progressed.
Conference there is a major problem that is not entirely within the control of the Chief Constable or the SPA and that is the funding gap. Police Scotland is a 1.15 billion per annum organisation and we need to save 68 million in the current year.
There are limited options on the table to achieve these savings. We are heading towards a cliff edge in 2016.
Cabinet Secretary the time is coming for the Scottish Government to review its thinking on the 17234 position on police officer numbers. I would never advocate a reduction in police officers but the Chief Constable and the SPA need to be given more latitude in developing a policing model where the balanced workforce is part of the discussions.
We have had challenges over the last year with counter closures but we need to look forward and work with communities on the best way to deliver visible, accessible and response policing as station closures are almost inevitable.
Colleagues public confidence and reassurance must never be taken for granted as we police by consent. Let me therefore turn to the public debate on stop and search and for the avoidance of any doubt ASPS fully supports its use as a legitimate and effective tool provided it is linked to policing outcomes. Some of the early messages were of course confusing. Stop and search should in the main be used where there is reasonable suspicion or as part of intelligence led policing. Consensual searches are also supported by ASPS but where there is an issue relating to the legal powers such as searches for alcohol then a case must be taken forward to amend legislation.
Cabinet Secretary I call upon you to consider expanding police powers on stop and search as it applies to carrying and consuming alcohol in public places.
Conference there are still not enough women in senior roles in policing in Scotland. It is still predominantly male led. There is also a lack of representation in senior roles from members of Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
I once again call on the Chief Constable to drive forward this area, examine the reasons and put in place an action plan to improve this situation
Cabinet Secretary as you are aware pensions are one of the most important subjects for members now and for those who will follow us.
I cannot stress enough the importance of educating colleagues at all levels, about the importance and value of the police pension, despite the higher costs of contributions from members.
Retired and serving members depend on the maximum possible participation in these police pension schemes.
We are working hard on the detail of the new 2015 police pension scheme in Scotland and I continue to have concerns about the future particularly the threat of opting out by new recruits.
Colleagues, I call on all of you to be proactive and encourage people to join and stay members of police pension schemes understanding the obvious benefits.
Cabinet Secretary, I also call on the Scottish Government to look seriously at ways of making pension contributions affordable for new recruits to the Police Service, that match contribution to progression through pay increments.
Cabinet Secretary I also anticipate your support for a 1% pay rise this September. As you are aware we recently agreed new pay scales for Superintendents and Chief Superintendents.
Conference with bigger jobs, bigger geographic areas, bigger span of command, push down from Chief Officer ranks of responsibility over high risk operational (gold command) areas and that increasing expectation of “always available”, we will continue to focus upon how we can narrow the pay gap between our members and Chief Officers as we move negotiations forward.
Conference we must continue to build on Scotland’s world class policing which is the envy of many.
Cabinet Secretary I must congratulate you for not giving Windsor any oxygen in Scotland and for not attacking police terms and conditions. We are only too aware of the impact upon morale and policing in England and Wales at this time and when coupled with many other issues there is no doubt that policing in Scotland is in a very different place. We do not take that for granted.
The first year of Police Scotland has seen change on a scale that few could have ever imagined, drawing together 10 organisations, more divergent in culture and working practices than would have previously been considered possible. The relentless demands created on our members was initially thought to be a temporary measure, necessary to drive restructure and reform and create a platform for future convergence. Barely 14 months on are we are confronted with the reality that the pace of change will not relent and the workload and pressures encountered represent the new normality.
In that context, we need to remain strong both individually and collectively as an Association, to support those who from time to time find the new operating environment personally and professionally challenging and for whom changes to working practices and working conditions have been difficult.
We can draw solace from the strategic intention of the force articulated in the new corporate strategy. Only by living and breathing the values of integrity, fairness and respect and unleashing the potential of our workforce by empowering them to deliver solutions for our communities in collaboration with others can we achieve the necessary savings and play our part in keeping communities safe.
In September the Independence Referendum places a duty on everyone to reflect on and challenge how things are currently organised. That includes policing.
Whether you are a “yes” a “no” or just “don’t know”, you need to consider the implication of the possible outcomes.
If the outcome is “Yes” – the detail will have to be addressed and in all probability in a fairly short timescale.
If the outcome is “No”, then it is still likely that Scotland will want to have more devolution.
We face a significant operational challenge shortly in the Commonwealth Games. I know we will provide safe Games for everyone and our members are looking forward to being part of it.
Conference can I make a final rallying call for ASPS members to get involved, stay involved and to support Niven Rennie your incoming President. I often describe us as being like a family and yes there are times when we do not all agree or have differences of opinion. We need to stand together, support each other in times of need and maintain the strong sense of unity which has got us to where we are today.

Conference as I now get ready to stand down as President I look back over my watch with a great deal of satisfaction and pride in all that we have achieved. We do however need to look forward and keep our eye on the ball and I wish the new team well in all their endeavours for members and proudly serving communities across Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary we thank you for all that you, the First Minister and your Government have done to support the police in Scotland.

Can I for the last time invite you to address our conference?