Leaders: Credit where it is due to Stephen House

The announcement that Scotland’s beleaguered police chief is to hand over control of the country’s new superforce almost a year early will come as little surprise to most.
Stephen House. Picture: Robert PerryStephen House. Picture: Robert Perry
Stephen House. Picture: Robert Perry

Stephen House took up his role as first chief constable of the newly created, unified national crime-fighting agency ­Police Scotland in 2012.

The task ahead was massive by anyone’s standards – bringing together eight regional constabularies into a single streamlined force while wielding the knife over cuts worth £1.1 billion by 2026.

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And it would be unfair to argue that his progress towards these goals has not been considerable. Savings equivalent to the entire budgets of three of the old regional forces were made in just two years under his stewardship. He received a knighthood just months after taking control.

However, the problems that have arisen on his watch are both numerous and significant, bringing mounting criticism on our top cop.

Reports suggest he is a divisive figure, possibly loved and loathed in equal measure. Some describe him as a control freak.

He was popular with both government ministers and the Scottish Police Authority, while policing for the Commonwealth Games earned his team a well-deserved pat on the back. His reputation was less vaunted with some of the rank and file, the continued cuts prompting accusations of a targets culture.

The 57-year-old had already indicated that he would step down when his initial four-year term came to an end next September, but his position had become increasingly untenable.

The tipping point came after officers failed to attend a fatal crash on the M9 in July, when two people died after lying undiscovered in the wreckage for three days. The incident sparked national outrage and demands for the chief’s head.

His force’s policy on stopping and searching youngsters and putting armed officers on routine patrol have also come under attack.

Upcoming reports from investigations into the death in custody of Sheku Bayoh and the results of a recent staff survey may also have played a part in his decision to quit before his contract ends. However, this remains unclear.

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But despite the growing list of major failings, we must give credit where it is due. And we might commend him for not jumping ship at the first sign of trouble – though possibly he’s not the type to walk away without tying up loose ends. And maybe securing a new job.

Even so, being Scotland’s head of police is about as thankless a task as you can get. It would be a very talented or very lucky individual who could survive a four-year term with their reputation intact.

Applications are now being invited – only the intrepid should apply.

Reform this House of Cronies

David Cameron’s comment that there is “no point” in reviving coalition plans for reforming the House of Lords should have triggered a massive backlash from the Lib Dems.

The Prime Minister’s naming of 45 new peers has sparked much protest from many camps, even the Tories’ own Scottish contingent.

But the government’s former bedmates have remained remarkably tight-lipped over the issue – and it’s not just because they are so few that you can’t hear them. A closer look at the list of new blood may shed some light on the matter.

The recently unseated party has done rather well in the latest list, with 11 from its own ranks receiving their reward for standing by as their credibility was destroyed. It’s a particularly laughable situation, given the party has only eight MPs.

But Cameron’s latest honours list will surely drive us a step closer to the kind of reform he has been side-stepping.

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The awards will push the total number of peers to 826 – a ridiculous number, considering there are 650 MPs. It is now the second largest legislative body on the planet, after China’s National People’s Congress. And accusations of cronyism are justified, with 26 Conservatives, 11 Lib Dems and just eight Labour members receiving the honour.

Rewarding disgraced Douglas Hogg, who claimed £2,200 in expenses for cleaning his moat, is an insult to voters. And elevating lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone is another blunder.

If Cameron values the institution as much as he makes out, it is time for a shake-up. He must modernise the Lords and make it fit for the future.