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Police Scotland

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Common name  Police Scotland
Employees  23,000
Formed  1 April 2013
Police Scotland
Motto  Semper Vigilo (Always Vigilant) Keeping People Safe
Preceding agency  9 Central Scotland Police Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary Fife Constabulary Grampian Police Lothian and Borders Police Northern Constabulary Strathclyde Police Tayside Police Scottish Police Services Authority
Volunteers  1,400 special constables

The Police Service of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Seirbheis Phoilis na h-Alba; operationally shortened to Police Scotland) is the national police force of Scotland. It was formed in 2013 with the merger of eight regional police forces in Scotland, as well as the specialist services of the Scottish Police Services Authority, including the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. Although not formally absorbing it, the merger also resulted in the winding up of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.


Police Scotland is the second-largest police force in the United Kingdom (after the Metropolitan Police Service) in terms of officer numbers, and the largest territorial police force in terms of its area of jurisdiction. The Chief Constable is answerable to the Scottish Police Authority, and the force is inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.

Scotland is also policed by the Ministry of Defence Police, British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary within their specific jurisdictions. The National Crime Agency also has some jurisdiction in Scotland. In 2016, the Scottish Government announced plans to integrate the Scottish division of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland, after the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland became a devolved matter.

Prior to merger

After a consultation process, the Scottish Government confirmed on 8 September 2011 that a single police service would be created in Scotland. The Scottish Government stated that "reform will safeguard frontline policing in communities by creating designated local senior officers for every council area with a statutory duty to work with councils to shape local services. Establishing a single service aims to ensure more equal access to national and specialist services and expertise such as major investigation teams and firearms teams, whenever and wherever they are needed." The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill was published in January 2012 and was approved on 27 June 2012 after scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill received Royal Assent as the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. In September 2012, Chief Constable Stephen House of Strathclyde Police was announced as the future first Chief Constable of Police Scotland. He was sworn into the post on 1 October 2012. The first chair of the Scottish Police Authority, Vic Emery (then the convener of the Scottish Police Services Authority), was appointed in August 2012.

As the date of formation approached, it was widely reported that the new Chief Constable and the Scottish Police Authority were in disagreement over the control of backroom staff.

In February 2013 it came to light that the previously announced logo for Police Scotland could not be used as the Force had failed to seek approval from the Court of the Lord Lyon. This new symbol, a stylised thistle upon a Scottish saltire shield, failed to meet the longstanding heraldic rules of the Lyon Court and was thus discarded. A permanent logo was not approved in time for 1 April 2013 creation of Police Scotland, but the pre-2013 crowned thistle emblem was finally (re)introduced in July 2013. This emblem was originally designed for the former Dumfries Constabulary by Robert Dickie Cairns (1866–1944), an art teacher at Dumfries Academy. With minor artistic variations, it was the same logo used by all regional Scottish police forces before 1 April 2013.

Police Scotland officially came into being on 1 April 2013 under the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, merging the following law enforcement agencies:

  • Central Scotland Police
  • Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary
  • Fife Constabulary
  • Grampian Police
  • Lothian and Borders Police
  • Northern Constabulary
  • Scottish Police Services Authority, including the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Strathclyde Police
  • Tayside Police
  • Since merger

    In June 2014, a leaked Police Scotland internal email to police managers in Dunfermline ordered a substantial increase in "stop and search" activities and warned any police officers not meeting the higher targets would be subjected to a performance development review. Police Scotland has previously denied setting stop and search performance targets for individual officers. The next month, it was revealed that between April and December 2013, Police Scotland's officers stopped and searched members of the Scottish public at a rate of 979.6 per 10,000 people, a rate was three times higher than that of the Metropolitan Police and nine times higher than that of the New York Police Department. It was also revealed that the Scottish Police Authority, the body tasked with overseeing Police Scotland, had removed criticism of Police Scotland's use of "stop and search" powers from a report it had commissioned. Also removed from the report were calls for a review of stop and search on children and for clarification of the policy's primary aim.

    In October 2013, Police Scotland announced proposals to close 65 out of 215 police station public counters and reduce opening hours at others. Police Scotland cited a drop in the number of people visiting public counters and the development of new ways for the public to contact the police, including the 101 telephone number and contact points which connect callers at police stations directly to officers, as reasons for the proposed closures. The plans were condemned by some opposition MSPs. In November 2016, it emerged that 58 further stations could close as part of an estates review.

    It was also announced in October 2013 that the number of police control rooms in Scotland was under review, with the possibility of 7 out of 10 control rooms closing. Control rooms considered for closure include Aberdeen, Inverness and Dumfries. The Dumfries control room closed in 2014 while closures in Aberdeen and Inverness (with functionality moving to Dundee) were delayed until 2017 as a result of a HMICS review of the service following a 2015 incident in which two persons died after their vehicle had crashed off the M9 motorway; the matter had been reported to the police just after the crash but was not investigated further at the time as the call was not properly logged onto the computer systems due to inefficient interim procedures in place following recent call handling centre restructuring in the eastern region of Scotland.

    In 2014, the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh was opened. This £73m secure facility houses several specialist investigative and analytical departments of the police including forensic services, and is also the base for other law enforcement-related agencies such as the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, HM Revenue and Customs and the National Crime Agency.

    In 2015, the former Strathclyde Police headquarters in Pitt Street, central Glasgow were closed and the officers based there transferred to a new £24million office in the Dalmarnock district of the city (although some functions moved to the regional control room in Govan).

    Executive Team

  • Chief Constable: Phil Gormley
  • Deputy Chief Constable (Designate): Iain Livingstone
  • Deputy Chief Constable (Local Policing): Rose Fitzpatrick
  • Deputy Chief Constable (Crime and Operational Support): Johnny Gwynne
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Local Policing – East): Wayne Mawson
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Local Policing – West): Mark Williams
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Local Policing – North): Andy Cowie
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Service and Protection): John Hawkins
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Strategic Development): Malcolm Graham
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Crime): Steve Johnston
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Support and Justice): Bernie Higgins
  • Assistant Chief Constable (Without portfolio): John Mauger
  • All force executive officers are currently based at Tulliallan Castle in Kincardine, Fife. The Assistant Chief Constables' salary depends on their previous experience and would normally fall between £90,000 and £106,000 a year. In 2014, Executive officers of the force were awarded a £10,000-a-year pay rise.


    Police Scotland uses the same rank structure and insignia as other police forces in the United Kingdom. The ranks of Constable, Sergeant and Inspector can be prefixed with the term "Police", which leads to the abbreviations of "PC", and, more rarely, "PS" and "PI". Normally, however, the "Police" is omitted as it is unnecessary, except for the abbreviations – especially PC. Detective officers of the ranks Constable to Chief Superintendent have their ranks prefixed with the term "Detective", e.g. Detective Constable (abbreviated "DC") and Detective Superintendent (abbreviated Det Supt).

    Local policing

    Local policing in Scotland is overseen by a Deputy Chief Constable. The country is divided geographically into 3 regions – North, East and West, each headed by an Assistant Chief Constable. There are 12 Divisions, each covering one ir more local authority areas and headed by a Chief Superintendent. All divisional commanders are "people who came up through the ranks in that part of the country". Divisions are further split into Local Areas under Chief Inspectors. These are the same 353 wards used in local authority elections; every ward in Scotland has its own local policing team (response) and Problem solving team (community).

    Officer numbers June 2016

  • National Resources are officers within specialist departments who are deployable across Scotland. This may include: National Intelligence, Prison Intelligence Unit, Human Trafficking Unit, National Rape Investigation, National Rape Review, Fugitive Unit and Scottish Protected Persons Unit, International Unit, HOLMES, Safer Communities Citizen Focus, Preventions and Interventions, and Strategic Partnerships, Scottish Police Information and Coordination Centre, Intelligence, Specialist Operations Training, Air Support, Dive/Marine Unit, Football Co-ordination Unit, Mounted Unit, Mountain Rescue, Motorcycle Unit
  • Regional Resources are officers within specialist departments who are deployable across their region. This may include: Major Investigation Teams, Forensic Gateways, E – Crime, Financial Investigations, Serious and Organised Crime Units, Counter Terrorism Units, Offender Management, Border Policing Command, Technical Support Unit and Interventions, Event and Emergency Planning, VIP Planning, Armed Policing Training, Road Policing Management & Policy, Armed Policing, Dogs, Trunk and Divisional Road Policing Groups and Operational Support Units
  • Divisional resources are the officers working within each local division. This also includes local CID officers
  • Aberdeen City (A) Division and Aberdeenshire and Moray (B) Division were merged to form North East Division on 1 January 2016.
  • Specialist Crime Division

    The Specialist Crime Division (SCD) provides access to national investigative and intelligence resources for matters relating to major crime, organised crime, counter terrorism, intelligence, covert policing and public protection. SCD comprises more than 2000 officers and targets individuals that pose the most significant threat to communities.

    Border Policing Command

    Officers from Border Policing Command operate in the major airports in Scotland and undertake examinations and searches of passengers under the Terrorism Act 2000.

    Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit

    Police Scotland has limited responsibilities when it comes down to counter terrorism, with the Metropolitan Police being the main force behind counter terrorism operations throughout the UK. However, the SCD does have counter-terrorism in its remit, and relies on daily support from several UK agencies, including MI5 and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism at the Home Office.

    Major Investigation Teams

    Major Investigation Teams (MITs) are located throughout Scotland and are responsible for leading the investigation of all murder inquiries and large-scale and complex criminal investigations. Although each MIT will be responsible for investigating cases within its own area, where required they will be able to be deployed anywhere in the country to respond to need and demand.

    National Counter Corruption Unit

    The National Counter Corruption Unit is the first of its kind in UK policing and works in partnership with the public sector to prevent corruption in publicly funded organisations. The unit also offers a specialist investigative capability. The unit is split into two teams, one focused internally within Police Scotland whilst a second team focuses on other publicly funded organisations.

    National Human Trafficking Unit

    The existing Scottish Intelligence Coordination Unit and Strathclyde Police Vice and Trafficking Unit combined on 1 April 2013 to form the new National Human Trafficking Unit (NHTU).

    National Rape Taskforce

    The investigation of rape and other sexual offences is a key priority for Police Scotland. National Rape Taskforce units are located in Glasgow and Aberdeen and work alongside Divisional Rape Investigation Units. They provide a national investigative capacity and a case review function.

    Prison Intelligence Unit

    The Prison Intelligence Unit (PIU) provides an interface for the exchange of information and intelligence between Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service. The unit also develops and supports policy, procedure, planning, research, technology development, advice and communication between Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service.

    Licensing and Violence Reduction Division

    The Licensing and Violence Reduction Division (LVRD) contains a number of miscellaneous functions including the titular alcohol licensing and violence reduction teams.

    One of the higher-profile units within the LVRD is the Domestic Abuse Task Force (DATF). The DATF has a presence in each of the command areas as DATF (West), DATF (East) and DATF (North). The DATF (North) is unique amongst the three in having sub-offices in N Division (Highlands and Islands), A Division (North-East) and D Division (Tayside). The DATF has national responsibility for pro-actively addressing domestic abuse. Its divisional equivalents are the Domestic Abuse Investigation Units.

    Another unit within the division is the Force Flexible Policing Unit (FFPU, or "Flexi Teams" as they are known locally), based in all three command areas (North, East, West). This unit's primary function is to act upon specific geographical intelligence relating to spikes in crime trends (particularly involving violence, alcohol, antisocial behaviour or other high volume crime), and carrying out taskings in the form of high visibility patrols and public reassurance.

    Roads Policing

    Policing of Scotland's roads network is shared between 13 Divisional Road Policing Units (DRPUs) aligned with their respective Local Police Division which have the aim of achieving casualty reduction and wider operational objectives and a dedicated Trunk Road Patrol Group (TRPG) patrols the motorway and trunk road network. The TRPG operates from bases in Dalkeith and Stirling in the east, Glasgow, Irvine, Lockerbie and Motherwell in the west and Fort William, Inverness, Perth and Aberdeen in the north. There are roughly 500 road policing officers in Scotland.

    Operational Support Unit

    Six operational support units (OSUs) have been established to provide specially skilled officers trained in over ground search, public order and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) response. When not used in their specialist roles OSU officers are deployed in local communities focusing on issues as directed by demand. OSUs are based in Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee (North), Edinburgh and Alloa (East) and Glasgow (West). Across the force area the OSU comprises a total of 6 Inspectors, 18 Sergeants and 172 Constables.

    Armed Response

    Prior to the creation of Police Scotland, standing authorities for the deployment of armed officers had been in place across more than half the country for many years. Since early 2008 in former Strathclyde Police, 2009 in Tayside Police and from March 2013 in the former Northern Constabulary. Now all 13 local policing divisions in Scotland have their own dedicated armed response vehicle (ARV) teams. Throughout Police Scotland around 450 officers are trained in firearms. 275 of these are dedicated firearms officers. Officers authorised in carrying firearms carry a Taser, a Glock self-loading pistol(sidearm), and a Heckler & Koch G36 carbine. Recently, former Chief Constable Sir Stephen House authorised firearms officers to carry sidearms in a holster while on routine patrol. Previously, firearms officers had to collect weapons from a locked safe in an armed response vehicle under the authorisation of a senior officer. Armed police officers can also now respond to incidents that are not firearms related. This has led to a large amount of controversy, especially from community leaders in more rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands.

    Dog Branch

    The Dog Branch comprises 75 police dog handlers located throughout Scotland. Training has been centralised at the National Dog Training Centre in Glasgow.

    Air Support Unit

    The Air Support Unit is based at Glasgow City Heliport and consists of one helicopter, owned and operated by Bond Air Services under contract. A helicopter crew consists of one civilian pilot and two police officer observers. The Air Support Unit was inherited from Strathclyde Police, the only police force in Scotland to possess such a unit at amalgamation in April 2013. The Police Scotland and Strathclyde Police Air Support Units have suffered a total of three hull-loss accidents involving their aircraft, two of which resulted in fatalities.

  • On 24 January 1990, a Bell 206 JetRanger G-EYEI, normally used by Radio Clyde and covering for unavailability of the police MBB Bo 105 (G-SPOL) helicopter crashed in Giffnock, Glasgow after suffering engine failure during a sudden, severe snow storm. The aircraft was not fitted with a "Snow Deflector Kit" and suffered from choking of the engine air intake, resulting in the engine failing. The aircraft hit a five-story building while attempting to land and crashed to the ground, causing the death of 32-year-old police observer Sergeant Malcolm Herd. The remaining three crew (two police officers and one pilot) survived the accident.
  • On 19 February 2002, a Eurocopter EC135 T1 G-SPAU crashed in a field near Muirkirk in East Ayrshire while conducting a search for a possible missing child. The crew, comprising two police officer observers and one pilot escaped serious injury, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair and scrapped. Accident investigators were unable to confirm a definitive cause for the accident, but issued two recommendations to improve safety.
  • On 29 November 2013, Police Scotland's only helicopter (a Eurocopter EC135, registration G-SPAO), crashed into The Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow, killing ten people including all three crew.
  • Police Scotland currently has access to a loan helicopter (also a Eurocopter EC135, registration G-CPSH, formerly of the Chiltern Air Support Unit) from the National Police Air Service.

    Marine and Underwater Unit

    Two full-time units skilled in both underwater search and marine capability are based in Greenock (1 Sergeant and 11 Constables) and Aberdeen (dive supervisor and four Constables). A number of non-dedicated divers are retained across the country to provide additional support.

    Mounted Branch

    The mounted branches of Strathclyde Police and Lothian and Borders Police were merged prior to the formation of Police Scotland. The combined branch now provides mounted support throughout Scotland. The mounted branch is based in Stewarton, East Ayrshire and has a strength of 22 horses.

    Mountain Rescue

    Police Scotland operate four mountain rescue teams.

    Special Constabulary

    Special constables are unpaid volunteers who have the same police powers as their full-time counterparts when on or off duty. They must spend a minimum of 180 hours per year on duty. Although they and are unpaid, a "Recognition Award Scheme" remodelled in 2016 awards a payment of £1100 to special constables who achieve this quota and have at least two years police service. There are currently 1,400 special constables throughout the force.

    Special Constables undertake a new standardised comprehensive training program which normally runs over a course of at least six weeks with one week spent at Tulliallan Police College. When on duty, they wear the same uniform as their regular counterparts. There are no differences in their uniform, however their collar number consists of a four digit number beginning with a 7. Special constables can be used in time of need, usually working alongside regular officers on community teams, response teams and in the Specialist Crime and Operational Support Divisions.

    Uniform and equipment

    Standard uniform consists of black wicking T-shirts with black trousers. Black micro fleeces are also issued along with high visibility water proof bomber jackets. Black and high visibility body armour covers with attachment points for items of equipment are also standard.

    Personal equipment consists of a police duty belt holding handcuffs, an expandable baton and PAVA spray. Equipment can be attached directly to the body armour or worn on a utility belt. Officers in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders divisions as well as Traffic officers d (G, E, J and T divisions respectively), officers are issued hand held computers which are known as a Personal Data Assistant (PDA) instead of a pocket notebook. All Police Scotland officers when on duty are issued with Motorola MTH800 radios for use with the Airwave network which is being replaced as part of the government's new network.


    Police Scotland has a fleet of approximately 3,750 vehicles. Almost all of Police Scotland's high-visibility marked vehicles are marked up in a "half-Battenburg" style.

    The most common marked patrol vehicles for response and neighbourhood officers have been the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, and Peugeot 308, though vehicles used can vary around the country as they were inherited from separate forces; Ford Mondeos, Ford Transits, Ford Transit Connects, Vauxhall Vivaros, Volkswagen Transporters and Mercedes Vitos are also included in the local Policing and Problem solving teams. In September 2015 Peugeot won the contract to provide response vehicles, after Ford had been awarded the first supply contract in January 2014. There is currently a two year procurement freeze on new vehicles from 2016.

    BMW currently holds the contract for supplying the roads policing vehicles and are supplying 330D, 525D and three-litre X5 vehicles. There are also still Audi A4, BMW X5s, BMW 530Ds in use. The Operational Support Unit primarily use the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Iveco Daily as personnel carriers. Armed response vehicles consist of two liter BMW X5 and Mitsubushi Shotguns

    Crime Division officers tend to use semi-marked or unmarked hatchback and estate cars. Vauxhall Movano vans are also used, some acting as mobile offices. Some of these vehicles are modified for police use with radios, lights, sirens and a 'run lock' facility enabling officers to take the keys out of the ignition without stopping the engine running, thereby ensuring the battery is not depleted if the lights need to be left on for long periods of time.

    Police 101

    A national non-emergency phone number (101) was introduced on 21 February 2013, after having been successful in Wales and later England. When a caller dials 101, the system determines the caller's location and connects them to a call handler in the police service centre for their area. The 101 non-emergency phone is intended for situations when an emergency response is not required, to reduce pressure on the 999 system.

    Transport policing

    In May 2016, the Scotland Act 2016 was passed, giving the Scottish Parliament responsibility for policing of railways in Scotland. In August 2016, the Scottish Government announced that their programme for the coming year would include a Railway Policing Bill which would provide primary legislation for the full integration of the functions of British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland.

    However, the BTP is opposed to the plans due to potential increased costs and the implications on the seamless nature of policing operations across the UK's rail network.


    Police Scotland Wikipedia

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