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by Staff reporter
23 February 2023
Police Scotland chief constable retires amidst warning of 'unsustainable' operations

Police Scotland chief constable retires amidst warning of 'unsustainable' operations

The chief constable of Police Scotland is to leave the force after flagging fears over funding.

There are concerns over operations in the long term, a report states, and questions over the expectations placed on the police.

Appointed to the role in 2018, Iain Livingstone's contract was due to end in August 2025, but he will retire this summer.

The announcement came as he published a report warning that policing is "unsustainable" under the cash settlement from the Scottish Government.

Presented to the Scottish Police Authority today, it states: "Police Scotland has often absorbed the impact of wider public sector financial challenges and is taking responsibility in situations where the police service is not the most appropriate service to respond.

"This position is unsustainable in the long term and detracts from the ability to intervene effectively at the critical end of risk and harm."

Livingstone said: "By my last day in service I will have been a police officer for 31 years and had the privilege of serving as chief constable for nearly six of those years.

"Police Scotland is an organisation with shared values and high levels of operational competence. The service improvements achieved in our ten years are unprecedented across the United Kingdom public sector, delivering effective policing for the public.

Problems are hardwired into the structures of Scottish policing

"We now have a full leadership team with the experience and capability to continue the progress made and can take confidence from the exceptional role Police Scotland played through Covid, COP26 and the events following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

"The police officers and police staff of Police Scotland are outstanding. Leading them as chief constable to serve the people of Scotland has been the honour of my working life."

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said: "I thank Iain Livingstone for his long and dedicated service with Police Scotland. He has played a key role in ensuring the security of the whole of the United Kingdom as part of the UK’s policing family. I am particularly grateful to him for his role in delivering a safe and secure COP26 in Glasgow. I wish Sir Iain well in whatever he decides to do next."

Scottish Lib Dem justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP commented: "The rate at which chief constables and police authority bosses have come and gone over the past decade points to much deeper issues. 

"Problems are hardwired into the structures of Scottish policing as a result of the SNP's botched centralisation. Ministerial distraction has added to their burden. 

"The police are picking up the pieces of the mental health crisis because NHS services are overwhelmed. We need to recruit a legion of specialist mental health staff to work alongside the police to get people the expert help they need, enabling officers to focus on fighting crime instead of being social workers of last resort. 
"It is time to inject accountability and localism back into policing, transform mental health services, and scrap plans that would repeat the mistakes of centralisation in social care."

Sir Iain leaves the second largest force in the UK in great shape

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene MSP said: "The Scottish Police Authority report, in Sir Iain Livingstone's name, could not be clearer about the impact of the nationalists' cuts to the policing budget, which has seen officer numbers fall to their lowest level since 2008.

"Our dedicated police officers are being asked to do more with less by SNP ministers – and, as well as being a totally unrealistic expectation, it appears to have cost them the services of Police Scotland’s top officer. He leaves with a distinguished record and I wish him well for his retirement.

"The SNP must heed Sir Iain's parting, warning shot, and whoever replaces him must be given the resources necessary by them to deliver the level of service our police officers want to offer and which the public expect."

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: "I would like to pay tribute and offer my thanks to Sir Iain for his long and distinguished service to Scottish policing. As chief constable of Scotland he has led the force through what history will show to be hugely significant events.

"The successful policing of COP26, when the world's focus was on Glasgow, has been widely applauded as was Police Scotland's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. During that time, officers were praised for their measured and proportionate handling of an unprecedented crisis, and we have Sir Iain to thank for that strategic direction.

"Most recently the sensitive and effective policing operation put in place following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth provided a fitting tribute. Again, Sir Iain can be rightly proud of the strong and inspiring leadership he provided, which drove forward the whole Police Scotland response.

"Sir Iain leaves the second largest force in the UK in great shape as it prepares to mark its tenth anniversary - and that is a fitting and lasting legacy to his life of service."

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