The concept of "Maintaining the Common Good" has been the fundamental precept of law and order in Scotland – a wider notion than that of the English "Thief-taker".
In Glasgow, until the last quarter of the 18th century, a night watch of citizens was responsible on a rota basis for patrolling the city for the purpose of deterring crime and controlling the misdemeanours of the populace.
The expansion in urbanisation as a result of the effects of the Industrial Revolution in the last quarter of the 18th century was the influencing factor in introducing policing to Glasgow. The decision to form a police force in Glasgow was "an attempt to improve the city's response to the growing problems of public order and deterioration in urban amenity".
On 28 February 1779, a paper was laid before the magistrates and council recommending the appointment of an inspector of police. One James Buchanan was recommended. However, the council had no power to levy a rate to fund the force and by 1781 the project failed. In 1788 a committee of the council presented a report on the duties and responsibilities of an "Intendent" of Police. Again, opposition to the imposition of a police rate was such that the idea was dropped. In 1800, a bill in Parliament called for extension of the city boundary and "for appointing a superintendent of police, watchmen and superintendents of wards". It was to be funded by a rate. Powers were renewed and extended by Acts in 1807, 1821, 1830 and 1837 and 1843. By a Police Act in 1846 the City of Glasgow Police took over three adjoining forces: Calton (1819), Gorbals (1808) and Anderston (1824).
On 15 November 1800, the first day of operation, sixty-eight night and nine day officers constituted the police force. This had risen to 121 in 1815 and 233 by 1833.
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