Crockart and McInnes criticise Scottish Police station closure plan

policeIn 2011, the SNP decided to merge Scotland’s 8 police forces into a single organisation. Truth be told, that’s not quite what they’d put in their manifesto, but with an overall majority they were in a position to do what they wanted.

Liberal Democrats were vociferous in warning about the dangers of how the merger would affect rural policing. We were told we were scare-mongering and it would all be fine.

Barely six months on from the merger, it’s been announced that 65 rural police stations might close or have their opening hours cut. Even in a large town like Livingston, where I live, our 24/7 service will be staffed by civilians not officers.

Ok, so saying I told you so may not be cool, but, well, the Liberal Democrats told you so.

And our parliamentarians have been speaking out on it today. Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes said:

The proposed closure of 65 public counters in police stations could have a real impact on long-established links between police and the local community.

It remains unclear as to whether local communities will be consulted on these plans. Any changes to public counter operating hours must be closely monitored.

And MP Mike Crockart, a former Police Officer, gave his view in a column for the the Evening News. He said:

TODAY Police Scotland published details of its Public Counter Service Review affecting Edinburgh’s E-Division. It does not make for enjoyable reading.

As a former police officer serving for eight years, I have my own ideas about what policing is about and my views on the future of our force should look like. Today’s review sets out a very different picture to the one which I want for Edinburgh communities.

There are 14 stations in Edinburgh, including the Police Information Centre, which provide a public counter service; of these five are left unaffected by today’s proposals which include the city centre stations at Gayfield Square and St Leonards. The review sets out a roadmap to a police force which is ill-placed to deal with local concerns and community priorities. In South Queensferry for example front desk opening hours are 9am-5pm Monday to Friday; under the new proposals there will be no public counter provision. This is echoed in Balerno and Oxgangs. In Corstorphine and Craigmillar the 7am-midnight seven days a week service will be lost entirely in favour of a shared service at the local Neighbourhood Offices.

The cuts amount to a staggering 598 hours per week. That’s 25 days of public-facing policing lost each week across the Capital. Police Scotland argues the front desk work in the stations where there are cuts does not constitute a ‘core demand’; I disagree. Is reporting a crime really an ‘ancillary demand’ in a police station? Is surrendering if there is a warrant out for you really not a core function? Not according to Police Scotland.

This smacks of massaging the figures to justify a preconceived closure plan. Our communities should be at the heart of policing; their needs and concerns are of paramount importance to the officers serving in that area. That is what policing is about and for many officers that is what makes them join.

I hope Scots remember the SNP’s blithe reassurances out the Police service when they cast their votes on independence next year. After all, the SNP dismisses even the mildest scrutiny of its plans as scaremongering and reassures us that independence will all be fine.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • Robin Bennett 2nd Oct '13 - 5:47pm

    Do not conflate SNP policies on the police with the independence issue. After independence the SNP will have lost its raison d’etre – and hopefully Lib Dems will soon be leading a coalition at Holyrood.

  • Al McIntosh 2nd Oct '13 - 9:41pm

    Do Crockart and McInnes think that there are no police or fire cuts going on in England? They should reflect on the fact that, in Scotland, the government has put 1105 more police on the street which contrasts sharply with the cuts in numbers under the Westminster coalition in England depite manifesto commitments to increase them. How many Scottish police officers would Crockart and McInnes cut to pay for 7 extra senior management teams?

    Most people never meet the senior managers in their police services. What matters and what is real localism is preserving and increasing the numbers of as many local police officers as possible that people really do see in their neighbourhoods. That contrasts with the Westminster coalition’s fake localism of cutting local bobbies to keep a county name painted on their cars and to pay for expensive and useless police and crime commissioners,

    Lets not forget that Scotland has to subsidise Westminster and is subject to austerity caused by Westminster’s failure. With full control of its own revenues, including those from oil, that is only possible after a YES vote, Scotland would have more to spend on police and other services.

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