Criminal Justice Committee
Meeting date: Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Agenda: Priorities in the Justice Sector and an Action Plan, Subordinate Legislation
- Priorities in the Justice Sector and an Action Plan
- Subordinate Legislation
Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2022 (SSI 2022/103)
Our next agenda item is consideration of five Scottish statutory instruments. I refer members to papers 3 to 5. For the record, I remind members that I am a former police officer with Grampian Police and Police Scotland.
Paper 3 relates to the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (Freezing Order) (EU Exit) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SSI 2022/95), on which we need to make three decisions. We need to decide whether we agree with the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee that the use of the negative procedure is appropriate and that the Scottish Government is correct to assess the instrument as being of low significance for the reason that it contains minor and technical changes and relates to continuity of law without making any change to policy. We also need to decide whether we have any further comments to make on the instrument.
Do members have any comments to make or are they content?
Do you mean on everything?
No—just the first instrument. Are members content?
Members indicated agreement.
Paper 4 covers the next two instruments—SSI 2022/79 and SSI 2022/80. Does members have any comments to make? If not, we will consider the SSIs as coming into force.
Members might be aware that there was recently some press coverage on the changes to the police pension. I have already written to the chief constable about the matter. I believe that he is concerned about the exodus of police officers, which is totally understandable, because the changes—which I understand are legally necessary—encourage them to go. We are going to lose hundreds of police officers who have reached the age of 50.
Although I think that I am correct in saying that, according to the policy note, there is no additional cost to the public purse, it would be remiss of us not to note that the SSI relates to something that is of deep concern to running our police service. It is understandable that police officers will take retirement, but there will be a huge skills deficit in Police Scotland. I suggest that, at a future point, we might want to think about how the committee addresses that with the Government and Police Scotland.11:45
To continue on the media stuff, I do not know if there is any detail on this, but I have been told that something like 20 to 30 per cent of those who could apply—which is about 1,700, I believe—were expected to apply, but it turns out that 80 per cent of them have applied. That has serious potential implications.
I am certainly aware of the recent media coverage, and the inferred link between the two issues. It is probably appropriate for us to monitor that.
I will not oppose the SSI—who am I to stand in the way of someone’s retirement? However, we could request that the Government and Police Scotland outline their strategy on recruitment and provide some data, including on the time lags involved. We could ask about increases in intake at the Scottish Police College and when those people could become operational, so that we can look ahead to ensure that there will not be a lag in resource at Police Scotland. We need to keep our eye on any potential for that.
We could ask about what recruitment mitigation is being put in place.
Is there anything else? Otherwise, we will consider the SSIs that have just gone through—
I have a point of clarification, following on from what Jamie Greene has said. I am not suggesting that I would vote against the instrument. In fact, I do not think that we can, theoretically, as we are discussing a legal requirement. Would it make any difference whether we voted for or against the instrument? Do you see what I am saying? It feels as though our hands are tied. Even if I was inclined to vote against the instrument—so that we could establish the timeline and so that I knew exactly what I was voting for, as a legislator—I feel that there is a legal requirement on us. The note before us does not say that, however. It would be helpful to get that—
Could the clerk come in to clarify that?
I should clarify that, if any member wanted to suggest that the instrument should not come into force, they would be required to lodge a motion to annul the instrument at the chamber desk. The committee is required to report on the instrument by 27 April. If someone is minded to suggest that the instrument should not come into force, they will need to speak to the chamber desk between now and 27 April in order for that to go on next week’s agenda. Without a formal suggestion being made that the instrument should not come into force, it will come into force. If any member does not want the instrument and its provisions to come into force, they will have to lodge a motion to annul it before 27 April, so that the committee can consider the matter.
Are you content with that, Pauline?
I am content with that—and I am not intending to take such action, by the way. However, given what we already know, we need to know what the legal position is. What is the point of lodging a motion to annul if we have a legal obligation? The measures arose from a court case.
Russell Findlay is quite correct: press reports suggest that 80 per cent of the police officers concerned have already applied, with 1,700 people being eligible. Can you imagine that? I feel that the note before us does not reflect the enormity of what the Parliament is being asked to sign off. I kind of feel that we have no choice, but it is important to say how we feel. What choice do we have?
I accept the points that you make, which are obviously shared by other members, so I am happy for us to pick up the issue offline and consider it more closely. It is a very valid issue to raise.
Referring to what Pauline McNeill has been saying, the instrument before us is the first of two pieces of subordinate legislation that are coming through. It might be worth pursuing the matter to get answers to some of the questions that she has raised. There are two aspects to it, but the heart of it relates to the McCloud judgment and the need for levelling up, given the discrimination that came about.
That brings me on to paper 5, which covers the final two related instruments—SSI 2022/101 and SSI 2022/103. Do members wish to make any comments over and above what we have already discussed? Otherwise, we will consider the SSIs as coming into force, while agreeing to consider further offline the potential unintended consequences of the measures.
Are members happy with that? Are we in agreement?
Members indicated agreement.
That completes our consideration of the Scottish statutory instruments before us, and that concludes the public part of our meeting.11:51 Meeting continued in private until 13:10.