Local Police Services under threat

Communities must be at the heart of policing
Communities must be at the heart of policing

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP asking him to put in place a review of the effectiveness of Police Scotland and the impact on local communities since the removal of the local Police Forces.

In Fife we have seen the closure of local Police Stations and an increase in the numbers of complaints about the ability of the Police to respond to the needs of local people.

Many constituents have told me that police officers responding to call outs explain they are covering large areas and we are seeing a run down in the numbers of community police and indeed police available in local areas.

New figures released by Scottish Labour show that more than 53,000 working days at Police Scotland were lost to stress in the last two years.

The figures were obtained from Police Scotland through a Freedom of Information request by Scottish Labour. They also show that between January and March this year, the most recent period for which figures are available, 10,016 working days were lost due to a stress related condition. This is an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year (January to March 2014).

Many in local government were less than convinced by the move to one national Police Force and many of the fears expressed at that time now seem to be happening.

I have also highlighted the fact that in April this year there was a failure to pass on a call to Police in Fife about an incident in Cowdenbeath and Police Scotland made clear then this was unacceptable.

A copy of the letter is below:

Dear Cabinet Secretary

I am writing to ask that you and the government consider setting up a strategic review of the effectiveness of Police Scotland and the impact it has had on local communities since it replaced local Police Forces.

I appreciate that much attention has rightly been focussed on the recent events on the M9 and I would agree that what happened with John Yuill and Lamara Bell being left for three days is torturously unthinkable and every family in Scotland will be horrified and thinking ‘imagine if it was my family’.

We need to await the findings of the inquiry before making any judgements on who is responsible for such a catastrophic failure and what action needs to be taken, including who needs to take responsibility.

I do however want to be clear that this is not the first time the call centre at Bilston Glen has failed and I have previously raised this matter with you and your Ministers in Parliament as well taking up specific complaints with Police Scotland.

On 10th June I received a response from Police Scotland to a complaint that police had failed to respond to an incident in my constituency and was advised by Police Scotland that; “The circumstances of Saturday April 18th April 2015 were such that due to an error by a call taker at Bilston Glen control room who received the call, no local Police units were alerted to or dispatched to attend the incident”. The inspector went on to say “I am in total agreement with you (and your constituent) that this was a totally unacceptable response”.

So it is the case that Police Scotland, and Ministers, were aware of the problems at Bilston Glen which were being raised by myself, and many others, and so the question which needs to be answered is what did you and they do about it?

However, the problems seem to run much deeper with police officers being dispatched all over the country under increasing pressure which also puts increasing pressure on local policing. I have been given many examples of police not turning up, or not turning up until well after they were required and explaining to local people the level of pressure they are working under and how under resourced they are to cover their area.

I say enough is enough and we must now ask the fundamental question which is, ‘are the communities of Scotland better serviced under one national Police Force or do we need change to a more localised Police Service that can better meet local needs across Scotland?’

I am calling for such a review and I am asking for you and your government to begin talks on how such a review can now be taken forward.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Post Author: Alex Rowley