Local Policing in Transition
: Examining the Impacts and Implications of Police Reform in Scotland

  • Yvonne Hail

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Since the reintroduction of a Scottish parliament in 1999, and set against a backdrop of significant cuts in public spending, there has been much debate regarding law and order discourse from a Scottish perspective. In 2011, the Scottish Government conducted two consultations on the most radical programme of police reform for a generation. The consultation process ensued that on 8 September 2011, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice announced the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce legislation to create a single, national police service in Scotland with claims that it would deliver an estimated savings of £130 million a year and £1.7 billion over 15 years.

    Under this new legislation local policing became (for the first time) a statutory requirement, giving key responsibilities to local police commanders to devise local policing plans for each area in consultation with local authorities and communities. This localised focus raised questions as to the potential gains and losses of such a merger and prompted a renewed focus on enduring academic debates regarding local policing strategies, governance, accountability and the relative merits of different styles of policing across Scotland’s communities. Understanding the impact and implications of these local arrangements provides the focus for this thesis.

    The level of recent organisational change which has occurred across policing in Scotland is comprehensive in its scope and sits within the concept of macro level change. With regard to police reform, the majority of existing research has focused on micro level or operational changes; with an example of this being seen in the work of Skogan (2006) who examined the impact of community policing initiatives. Despite there being a large number of existing studies on police reform, there is a distinct lack of research which examines macro levels of reform, such as those recently experienced in Scotland. Therefore, this project, which was conducted parallel to the implementation of police reform in Scotland, is able to provide a unique and valuable snapshot of how reform was experienced on the frontline at the very time it was being implemented.

    Local policing strategies were chosen for this study as it is believed that this is the approach which bests suits an examination of daily interactions between the public and local police personnel. By employing a qualitative methodology using semi structured interviews and non-participant observations, this project is able to show both the individual and group construction of the meanings associated with post reform policing practices in each of the case study areas.

    The researcher does not attempt to make any broad generalisations regarding post reform local policing across Scotland from the findings, however, similar themes highlighted in the findings as being experienced by both case study area provides a framework for conducting further research.

    In terms of the thesis’ overall contribution to academic literature, the key findings reported here highlight that there is a requirement for a specific police organisational change theory to be developed which can fill the gaps in current change literature and assist in framing future police reform. This police change theory should include a directive that recognises the importance of the role of frontline staff in the translation of changes at an operational level and support the inclusion of members of the frontline in the planning and implementation of future police reforms.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council, UK
    SupervisorNicholas Fyfe (Supervisor), Jonathan Mendel (Supervisor) & Liz Aston (Supervisor)


    • Police reform
    • Organisatinal change
    • Local policing
    • Community policing

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