Policing in Scotland

Authored by: Daniel Donnelly , Kenneth Scott

Handbook of Policing

Print publication date:  August  2008
Online publication date:  August  2012

Print ISBN: 9781843925002
eBook ISBN: 9780203118238
Adobe ISBN: 9781136308529


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In the policing systems of the United Kingdom Scottish policing has always had a problem with its own identity. Is it part of a ‘British’ model of policing? Is it a regional variation of that model? Does it possess sufficient characteristics of its own to define it as a distinctive approach to policing? The relatively small number of commentators on policing in Scotland have varied in the answers given to these questions. Some, whilst recognising a distinctive legal framework, have argued that policing in Scotland ‘consists of a distinctive but broadly familiar set of social practices informed by a distinctive but broadly familiar pattern of historical development’ (Walker 1999: 94). Some would say that, particularly in the context of Scottish devolution, policing in Scotland has gained a degree of distinctiveness which was not apparent before the coming of a Scottish Parliament and Executive/Government 1 (Donnelly and Scott 2005). Others would point to the tendency for policing policies to be ‘tartanised’, that is for a Scottish version to be created of ideas coming from the larger neighbour down south (see Donnelly and Wilkie 2002). In some instances, studies analysing ‘British’ policing have ignored or sidestepped the existence of parts of the UK other than England and Wales. Yet the first serious academic study of policing in Britain was conducted in Edinburgh by Michael Banton (1964), who then used his ethnographic material on The Policeman in the Community from that Scottish context to make comparisons with policing in the United States. One of the criticisms of Banton's work, however, was that a study of the Scottish police could not be taken as representative of British policing in general (Skolnick 1966).

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