Public confidence in Police Scotland remains high during pandemic

As Scotland enters its eighth month of Covid-19 restrictions, new research shows “continuing and robust levels” of public confidence in policing across the country.

Nov 24, 2020
By Paul Jacques
SPA interim chair David Crichton

An independent survey commissioned by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) found almost two-thirds of the public rated Police Scotland’s policing during the pandemic as excellent or good.

SPA interim chair David Crichton said: “This pandemic continues to present huge challenges for policing, which has required Police Scotland to carefully consider and adapt its approach as restrictions have eased or enhanced in different places across the country.

“It is therefore reassuring that the third set of independent polling commissioned by the authority shows that on the whole, public confidence in the service remains high and consistent across the country.”

The findings are detailed in the SPA’s third set of independent survey results of public opinion of policing during the pandemic.

The survey was carried out between September 29 and October 5 and questioned 3,791 individuals.

The main findings include:

  • Public confidence in Police Scotland’s performance remains high with 61 per cent of respondents rating their local police as excellent or good;
  • Public support for Police Scotland’s approach during the pandemic remains largely unchanged with 44 per cent of people fully supporting the approach; and
  • The proportion of people who define Police Scotland’s approach as heavy-handed has dropped from 17 per cent in April to eight per cent in October. This can also be considered alongside a GB level measured by YouGov in April of 32 per cent.

The SPA said some variations were identified in the findings between age group, geographical location and demographics, for example:

  • Older people were significantly more likely than younger people to rate the policing in their area as excellent or good (70 per cent for people aged 65-plus compared with 51 per cent for those under 25);
  • People living in rural areas were more likely to have confidence in Police Scotland (66 per cent saying excellent or good, compared with 59 per cent in urban areas); and
  • People who said they would struggle to raise a sum of money urgently to help a family/household in need were less likely to have confidence in the police than those in a financially more secure position.

The survey also explored whether people with particular circumstances were finding it more challenging than others to comply with the restrictions associated with lockdown.

While 51 per cent said it had been quite easy to comply with all aspects of the lockdown regulations, the SPA said there was evidence to suggest that some groups have found compliance more challenging than others.

For people with certain circumstances, the level of ease falls where people have caring responsibilities, mental health conditions or where their job requires them to have close and prolonged contact with other people.

Mr Crichton said: “There is also no doubt that the public are making great sacrifices to help contain the virus and, of course, policing cannot operate without the consent of the public.

“While these latest results continue to show a high level of public compliance with restrictions, it is also evident that some people are finding this more challenging than others and the authority and the Independent Advisory Group, chaired by John Scott QC, will want to explore this further in the weeks ahead.”

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