IT really sticks in the craw when English exceptionalists try to claim that Sir Robert Peel founded the first modern police force in Britain, and they usually add Europe and the World as well.

Their assertions are absolute and utter balderdash.

I could go back to ancient history, to the Egypt of the Pharaohs, to Classical Greece and Rome and indeed to mediaeval Scotland and England to show how policing developed, but suffice to say the first police force as we understand them was the Maréchaussée, the mounted police force of France which was made the national law enforcement agency by King Louis XIV between 1697 and 1699.

Louis was building on the Maréchaussée’s long traditions – it was originally founded by King Philip IV, Philip the Fair, in 1306. He was the French king who agreed the Auld Alliance with Scotland in 1295. Still, that force was a national agency and not a municipal constabulary, and while Scotland for centuries had city guards and nightwatchmen, it was the irregular force of Bow Street Runners founded by the Fielding brothers in London which was seen as the first police as we understand them.

Peel did indeed take the credit for founding the Metropolitan Police in 1829, but they were not the first modern municipal police service – that honour belonged to the City of Glasgow police.

It’s also official to say that because, in 2008, the Met advertised for staff saying “We’re not just the oldest police service in the world. We’re also the most modern.”

A complaint, apparently from a Glaswegian police officer, went to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Met cringingly had to withdraw their claim.

The ASA issued no sanction but said “on the understanding that you will remove the claim that the Metropolitan Police is the oldest police service in the world, we will now close our file”.

A police source in Glasgow told The Times of London, no less, at the time: “It’s a bloody cheek. You think they would check these things out first.”

For without a doubt Glasgow had the first modern municipal police force. Indeed it had three of them, the first two failing in the latter part of the 18th century before the city fathers, with the assistance of former Lord Provost Patrick Colquhoun, inset, persuaded Parliament in London to pass the Glasgow Police Act, thus establishing a force to serve the city.

Importantly it was a preventative police force – the concept had been pioneered in Glasgow in the 1770s when a force of eight police officers was instituted.

There was no proper finance for it and the force was disbanded in 1781.

The dynamic merchant Patrick Colquhoun, the Dumbarton-born descendant of the ancient clan of that name based at Luss on Loch Lomondside – Sir Humphrey Colquhoun was one of those who voted against the Act of Union – was a keen statistician among other things, and though his main obsession was with the facts and figures of the cotton industry, he also began to gather crime facts and figures at about the same time he was Lord Provost of Glasgow between 1782 and 1784.

He had already built Kelvingrove House, inset, – his estate was the foundation of modern Kelvingrove Park – and co-founded the Chamber of Commerce in 1783 before moving to London, though before that he had argued for another attempt at a police force in Glasgow.

That second force began in 1789 and consisted of eight officers supplemented by watchmen. Again the problem was finance and it failed after just over a year.

Glasgow’s bailies began to petition Parliament for a law allowing them to levy a tax on citizens to pay for a proper force.

Having gone south to monitor his overseas trading – and yes, it did include slavery – Colquhoun became a magistrate and took with him from Glasgow the germ of an idea for a police force which he wrote in “Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis.”

Damage to trade was his chief worry. At the time it was estimated that the ships in the Pool of London were the biggest source of criminal income in Britain with more than £500,000 of goods stolen each year.

Using what we now recognise as a simple cost-benefit analysis, Colquhoun showed his fellow

merchants and traders that a police force would be financially sustainable and reduce theft. Colquhoun was joined by utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham and Master Mariner John Harriot in founding the River Thames Force, otherwise known as the Marine Police.

The force cost £4200 to establish and in its first year saved £120,000 from being stolen, despite a mob of 2000 men attacking its headquarters and one of its number, Gabriel Franks, being shot dead during what became known as the Wapping Coal Riot.

Nevertheless, preventative policing had been established and back in Colquhoun’s home city, the Glasgow bailies redoubled their efforts to get Parliamentary backing for their force.

As it happened both Colquhoun’s Marine Force and Glasgow’s force were both authorised by Parliament in 1800, a tremendous and historic achievement for the city and one of its most prominent sons.

The Glasgow Police Act thus ­established a fully professional and fully funded modern municipal police service, 29 years before Peel and his bobbies even existed.

Incidentally, the bailies used the Act to also annexe 96 acres of land to enable the growth of Glasgow.

What growth that was going to be. There was no national census in 1801, but an accurate estimate of the city’s population was compiled by the town council from several sources including the police levy and rates, which showed the population that year was around 77,000. In 1901, the population was found to be 762,000 and next week I’ll start showing how that incredible tenfold growth happened.

As for Colquhoun, despite his wealth being built on the back of slaves, he did carry out many public good works and after his death in 1820 he was commemorated by a monument in Westminster Abbey with this inscription: “His mind was fertile in conception, kind and benevolent in disposition, bold and persevering in execution.”