Approach to Police and Fire Reform risks reducing accountability

In the last week of this session, MSP’s debated legislation that will lead to major reform of the police and fire brigade services in Scotland.

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill will  substantially restructure these services by creating a single national police service and a single national fire and rescue service from April next year.  However, I am concerned that the legislation passed by the Scottish Government does not contain adequate safeguards to ensure local accountability.

While I am supportive of the principle of single forces, I am mindful of the concerns raised by communities across Scotland about the potential that a single force could become too focussed on some areas while resources are channelled away from others.  What I want to see is a national force for local communities.

During the debate, I spoke to amendments that would have helped to increase local accountability by giving councils the opportunity to have their say on issues like appointing local commanders and senior officers, to highlight local issues of concern and receive information about budget and staffing resources in their area.

Colleagues moved additional amendments on issues such as providing greater transparency on decision-making, ensuring a gender balance at the heart of the management of the services and making the services more accountable with the creation of a policing commission made up of MSPs.

I was deeply disappointed that the Scottish Government refused to accept these constructive contributions to the debate that would have helped address the concerns of Local Authorities, trade unions and communities