HMICS Thematic Inspection of Organisational Culture in Police Scotland

07 December 2023

The aim of this inspection is to make an assessment as to whether Police Scotland has a healthy organisational culture and ethical framework, and whether the appropriate values and behaviours are consistently lived across the organisation.

Organisational culture in policing is an area of significant public interest and rated highly in topics to be considered when HMICS consulted on its Scrutiny Plan 2022-25. It is also recognised that a decade has passed since the formation of Police Scotland – the biggest public sector reform in Scotland since devolution.

The speed of change and the merger of eight forces and two agencies to create on one service, with associated financial savings, created many challenges.

The inspection report identifies that Police Scotland is on a journey of change and improvement and contains 11 recommendations which are intended to enable the service to improve culture, address inequalities, define effectively what is valued and how it is measured, streamline processes and enhance communication, training and guidance.




Police Scotland should improve leadership behaviours across the organisation to ensure that officers and staff work in a culture that is supportive, collaborative and welcomes challenge.


Police Scotland should develop and deliver a set of actions to address the fundamental inequalities between officers and police staff, and frontline policing and other national/specialist functions.


Police Scotland should ensure that the probationer training syllabus is more reflective of actual frontline demand and the Competency and Values Framework, to allow officers to feel equipped to deal with the realities of policing.


Police Scotland should prioritise the completion of an organisational maturity assessment of continuous improvement, organisational learning and best value involving all improvement-related functions within the organisation and use this to inform a unified approach.


Police Scotland should review its Corporate Governance Framework and Scheme of Delegation to ensure that delegated decision-making and approval processes are streamlined.


Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority should reinforce the human rights and ethics-based approach for all policing activity.


Police Scotland should rename and refocus its grievance process to resolution/mediation, providing mandatory initial steps (in line with contractual and regulatory entitlement) and clear training on the management of the process.


Police Scotland should develop and implement a cohesive engagement and feedback framework (which should include a regular whole-service people survey).


Police Scotland should invest in organisational development and design in order to develop a clear model of adopting cultural change, with supporting implementation steps towards a clearly defined aspirational culture.


Police Scotland should develop its performance framework to encompass the impact of organisational culture, while regularly reporting to the Scottish Police Authority.


The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland should put in place measures to monitor progress against the areas for development outlined in this thematic inspection, ensuring regular public reporting to allow assessment of progress.

Publication type: 
Inspection report