Police Scotland

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Group.png Police Service of Scotland   PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Police Scotland.jpg
MottoSemper Vigilo
(Always Vigilant)
Predecessor8 Scottish police forces
HeadquartersNo. 6 Mar Place, Alloa, Clackmannanshire
LeaderChief Constable
The primary police service of Scotland

The Police Service of Scotland – operationally shortened to Police Scotland – is the primary police service of Scotland. It was formed in 2013 with the merger of all eight territorial police forces in Scotland and 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. The British Transport Police Scotland Division was merged into Police Scotland in 2016. Its first Chief Constable was Sir Stephen House (October 2012 – November 2015) whose successor Phil Gormley took up the post on 5 January 2016.[1] Gormley resigned on 7 February 2018.[2] On 15 August 2018, it was announced that Iain Livingstone would be the new Chief Constable.[3]

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 in terms of area served. The Chief Constable is responsible to the Scottish Police Authority, and the force is inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.

Scotland is also served by the British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary within their specific jurisdictions. The National Crime Agency also has some jurisdiction in Scotland.[4]


After a consultation process,[5][6] the Scottish Government confirmed on 8 September 2011 that a single police service would be created in Scotland.[7] 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[8] and was approved on 27 June 2012 after scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament.[9] 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.[10][11] The first chair of the Scottish Police Authority, Vic Emery (then the convener of the Scottish Police Services Authority), was appointed in August 2012.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14] 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 the 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.[15] With minor artistic variations, it was the same logo used by all regional Scottish police forces before 1 April 2013.[16]

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

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.[17] 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 Service 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]


Local policing

Scotland is divided geographically into 3 regions - North, East and West, each headed by an Assistant Chief Constable. Under these are 14 Divisions, each covering one or a few 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".[21] Divisions are further split into Areas under Chief Inspectors, and then into Wards under Inspectors. These are the same 353 wards used in local authority elections; every ward in Scotland has its own neighbourhood team and local policing plan.[22]

Officer numbers 31 December 2013 [23]

National Resources 1,399 Executive Team
West Regional Resources 1,321 ACC Wayne Mawson
Argyll & West Dunbartonshire L Division 574 C/Supt Helen Swann
Ayrshire U Division 849 C/Supt Gillian MacDonald
Dumfries & Galloway V Division 375 Temp C/Supt Michael Leslie
Greater Glasgow G Division 2,735 C/Supt Andy Bates
Lanarkshire Q Division 1,469 C/Supt Kenny MacDonald
Renfrewshire & Inverclyde K Division 680 C/Supt Jim Downie
Total West: 8,003
East Regional Resources 993 ACC Kate Thomson
Edinburgh E Division 1,161 C/Supt Mark Williams
Fife P Division 824 C/Supt Garry McEwan
Forth Valley C Division 642 C/Supt Davie Flynn
Lothians & Scottish Borders J Division 925 C/Supt Gill Imery
Total East: 4,545
North Regional Resources 576 ACC Derek Robertson
Aberdeen City A Division 552 C/Supt Adrian Watson
Aberdeenshire & Moray B Division 593 C/Supt Mark McLaren
Highland & Islands N Division 643 C/Supt Julian Innes
Tayside D Division 942 C/Supt Eddie Smith
Total North: 3,305
Total Force: 17,252
  • National Resources are officers within specialist departments who are deployable across Scotland. This may include: National Intelligence Bureau, Homicide Governance and Review, 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 Roads Policing Group and Operational Support Units.
  • Divisional resources are the officers working within each local division. This also includes local CID officers.

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.[24]

Border Policing Command

Officers from Border Policing Command operate across 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.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27]

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/B Division (Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire & Moray) 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.

Armed Response

Prior to the creation of Police Scotland, only urban areas had full-time dedicated firearms officers. Now all 14 local policing divisions in Scotland have their own dedicated armed response vehicle (ARV) teams. Throughout Police Scotland around 450 officers are trained in firearms.[28] Officers authorised in carrying firearms carry a Taser, a Glock pistol, and a Heckler & Koch MP5 carbine. Recently, Chief Constable Sir Stephen House authorised firearms officers to carry handguns 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 urban areas.

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 90 hours per year on duty and are unpaid, though a taxable "Recognition Award Scheme" payment of £1100 (after tax) is currently available for those Special Constables who work over 180 hours per year. The scheme is currently under review; a range of options are being considered in regard to the Recognition Awards Scheme but no final decisions have yet been taken regarding this. There are 1400 special constables throughout the force.

Special Constables undertake a new standardised comprehensive training program which normally runs over a course of at least 15 weekends or evenings. When on duty, they wear the same uniform as their regular counterparts. In some divisions they can be identified as Special Constables by their collar numbers and the 'SC' on their epaulettes although this is not the case across Scotland. Special Constables can be utilised in time of need, usually working alongside regular officers on neighbourhood teams, response teams and in the Specialist Crime and Operational Support Divisions.

Uniform and equipment

Uniform is currently being standardised across Scotland; some items were common across all of the legacy forces. Black body armour and black wicking shirts were issued across Scotland and remain as part of the Police Scotland uniform. A high visibility body armour cover with attachment points for items of equipment and black micro fleeces (worn under body armour) are now part of the standard uniform. Black trousers of varying styles are issued across Scotland.

Personal equipment consists of a police duty belt holding handcuffs, an expandable baton and CS spray. In some divisions this equipment is attached to body armour instead of being carried on a belt. Primarily in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Lothians and Scottish Borders divisions (G, E and J 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.


Police Scotland has a fleet consisting of approximately 3,500 vehicles. This is soon to be boosted to 3750 with a recent contract between the Scottish Police Authority and Ford with the supplying of 124 Ford Focus Estates and 58 Ford Transit Customs. The vast majority of Police Scotland's high-visibility marked vehicles are marked up in a "half-Battenburg" style.

The most common marked patrol vehicle for response and neighbourhood officers has been the Ford Focus and the Vauxhall Astra, though vehicles used can vary around the country as they were inherited from separate forces; Ford Mondeos, Ford Transits, Ford Transit Connects, Vauxhall Vivaros, Vauxhall Insignia, Volkswagen Transporters and Mercedes Vitos are also included in the response and neighbourhood fleet.

For roads policing, the standard vehicles are Audi's A4 and A6, BMW's X5, 5 Series and 3 Series, the Land Rover Freelander, the Volvo V70 estate, the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Mitsubishi Outlander. The Operational Support Unit primarily use the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Iveco Daily as personnel carriers.

Specialist 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 usage 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 (Police 101) was introduced on 21 February 2013, after having been successful in 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.[29] The 101 non-emergency phone is intended for situations when an emergency response is not required, in order to reduce pressure on the 999 system.

Lockerbie bombing

On 12 December 2022, Police Scotland released a statement on developments in relation to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988:

Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone said:

“The bombing of Pan Am 103 and the terrible loss of 270 lives has had a profound impact in Lockerbie, right across Scotland, and internationally.
“I pay tribute to the families of victims for the courage and dignity they have demonstrated for 34 years, and my thoughts remain with them today.
“Since 1988, policing in Scotland has been committed to carrying out the largest terrorist and murder investigation ever undertaken in this country.
“We have worked tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice. Police Scotland will continue to work closely on this investigation, under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, with our American law enforcement colleagues.”[30]


  1. "New Chief Constable of Police Scotland Appointed"
  2. "Ten Things We Now Know about Undercover Policing in Scotland"
  3. "Iain Livingstone named as Scotland's new chief constable"
  4. http://news.stv.tv/scotland/197532-police-scotland-name-of-new-single-police-service-unveiled/
  5. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2011/09/15110325/0
  6. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2011/12/15130636/0
  7. http://wayback.archive-it.org/3011/20130202143701/http://scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/09/08142643
  8. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/01/Police-Fire17012012
  9. http://wayback.archive-it.org/3011/20130201203949/http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/06/policeandfirereformstage327062012
  10. "New police chief discussing jobs"
  11. http://news.stv.tv/scotland/192900-stephen-house-starts-first-day-as-scotlands-single-police-force-chief/
  12. http://www.policeoracle.com/news/HR,+Personnel+and+Staff+Development/2012/Sep/04/First-Scots-Police-Authority-Chair-Announced_54051.html
  13. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article3603447.ece
  14. [http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/new-logo-for-single-police-service-is-scrapped.20304382
  15. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-14912714
  16. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/scottishnews/4987721/Police-Scotland-in-logo-blunder.html
  17. "Police chiefs warn officers: step up stop and search" Herald Scotland, 29 June 2014 http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/crime-courts/police-chiefs-warn-officers-step-up-stop-and-search.24620750
  18. "Police Scotland frisk nine times as many people as the NYPD" http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/police-scotland-frisk-nine-times-as-many-people-as-the-nypd.24811529
  19. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24359112
  20. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/10354411/Most-Scottish-police-999-control-rooms-to-close.html
  21. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21980816
  22. http://www.scotland.police.uk/assets/pdf/138327/150739/police-scotland-annual-police-plan-2013-14
  23. Police Scotland: Police Scotland Officer Numbers Quarter 3 - 31 December 2013 Linked 2015-04-11
  24. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/support_for_independence#incoming-444496
  25. http://www.scotland.police.uk/about-us/police-scotland/specialist-crime-division/
  26. http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/188888/item11
  27. http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/192814/item10
  28. http://www.scotsman.com/news/armed-police-to-patrol-all-of-scotland-1-2704945
  29. http://news.stv.tv/scotland/214908-police-launch-non-emergency-101-phone-line-to-ease-999-strain/
  30. "Statement on developments in relation to the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988"

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