HMICS Assurance review of vetting policy and procedures within Police Scotland

03 October 2023

The aim of this review of Police Scotland’s vetting was to assure the quality of vetting and renewals and whether these effectively identified potential misconduct, risk or vulnerability.

With recent high profile cases of police officers abusing their positions vetting is an integral part of the process to identify individuals who are unsuitable to work within policing. The review focussed on Recruitment and Management vetting of officers and staff either being recruited by or those already working within Police Scotland.

HMICS considered the history of vetting in Scotland in the years prior to the creation of Police Scotland in 2013. It reviewed vetting case files of officers and staff over a 4 year period between 2019 and 2022 as well as examining guidance and policy which currently provide the basis for vetting in Police Scotland.

The report contains 15 recommendations and identifies areas for development to improve Police Scotland’s vetting of its officers and staff and subsequent identification and management of risk. The report also highlights examples of good practice within the Force Vetting Unit.




The Scottish Government should place into legislation the requirement for all Police Scotland officers and staff to obtain and maintain a minimum standard of vetting clearance and the provision for the Chief Constable to dispense with the service of an officer or staff member who cannot maintain suitable vetting.


Police Scotland should undertake an urgent review to ensure that all officers and staff have been subject to at least Recruitment Vetting.


Police Scotland should introduce a programme so that officers and staff who hold only Recruitment Vetting are re-vetted at least every 10 years.


Police Scotland should ensure it has in place clear policy and robust processes for the granting of Conditional Vetting Clearance, including the ongoing management of identified risk.


Police Scotland should as a matter of urgency review its designated posts and its guidance in relation to the identification of designated posts, prioritising those posts that require working with vulnerable people.


Police Scotland should have clear policy and supporting processes in place which require all officers and staff to report relevant changes of their personal circumstances.


Police Scotland should have clear policy and supporting processes requiring all officers and staff to report any off-duty criminal charge, conviction or offence.


Police Scotland should have a policy in relation to reviewing the vetting clearance of officers and staff following misconduct proceedings.


Police Scotland should have a policy whereby, if an officer or member of staff is refused or has their Management Vetting or Government (National Security Vetting) vetting clearances withdrawn this will result in a review of their Recruitment Vetting clearance.


Police Scotland should introduce an annual integrity review including change of personal circumstances for all vetting clearances.


Police Scotland’s policies should allow all levels of vetting clearance to be refused, suspended or withdrawn.


Police Scotland should maintain a cadre of trained Chief Superintendents or police staff equivalent, to review appeals of vetting decisions from officers and staff already employed by the service.


Police Scotland should review the specific cases identified in this HMICS inspection as a matter of urgency and consider whether the vetting clearance granted is appropriate, and where risk is identified ensure mitigation plans are put in place.


Where the Force Executive becomes involved in the decision making of any vetting case (out with the processes described with the Vetting Manual of Guidance) it should report these cases to the SPA Complaints and Conduct Committee for oversight.


Police Scotland should, as part of the work being conducted for the NPCC Historic Data Wash, ensure that iVPD checks are conducted for all officers and staff.

Publication type: 
Inspection report