Police Governance and Accountability in Scotland Following Reform: Revisiting the Policy Rationale for the Creation of the Scottish Police Authority

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review





Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)438-464
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number4
Early online date26 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article critically assesses the policy discourse for police reform in Scotland, specifically focusing on the rationale for the creation of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA). Through a chronological review of official policy reports and consultations that took place prior to the 2012 Act, and by drawing on a select number of interviews 1 conducted as part of the wider study (Malik, 2017a), I argue that while austerity became the catalyst for change, police reform in Scotland was strongly supported by concerns around weak police governance arrangements. The SPA was created to strengthen financial oversight, to provide enhanced focus on national policing requirements and to bring in professional governance competencies and expertise that the local police authorities lacked. In the five years since reform, the SPA has continued to struggle to address these weaknesses. Furthermore, the official reform agenda neglected the need for robust mechanisms for accountability of operational policing. This omission manifested in the most abrasive fashion following the 2012 Act as cases such as stop and search and armed policing highlighted the inadequacies of the new police governance arrangements. In order that the SPA can fulfil its intended purpose, it needs to enhance its capacity and focus on providing holistic mechanisms for police governance that incorporate financial oversight and robust accountability of operational policing.

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