Fire and Police scheme condemned by Lib Dem MSP

Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, has condemned the SNP Government’s decision to press ahead with centralisation plans that she says will sever links between local police and fire and rescue services and the communities they serve.

She describes these as a “ministerial power grab”.

Mrs McInnes, who is also the Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson, has led the opposition to the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill and criticised the SNP Government again after the legislation was passed by Parliament on June 27.

The North East MSP said afterwards: “This Bill is bad news for communities across Scotland and is the death-knell for Tayside Police and our local fire and rescue service.

“Emergency services should be funded, managed and delivered locally, overseen by local elected representatives and answerable to our communities.

“For example, police today are much more than crime-fighters.

“They help at midnight football leagues, engage with community councils and talk to young drivers about staying safe on the roads.

“They build relationships and contribute greatly to our local communities.

“We now face losing all that good work because the SNP is intent on introducing an unwieldy single police force which has to answer only to the Government.

“Scotland-wide services simply cannot be as responsive to local needs as our current services.

“Every step of the way, the Scottish Government has ignored the legitimate concerns that people in the North East have about the future of policing of their communities, choosing instead to put their fingers in their ears and carrying on regardless. They even ignored the results of their own public consultation.”

The MSP points out that the newly-created Scottish Police Authority, the body that will be tasked with monitoring the police in Scotland, will be appointed directly by Ministers, will answer to Ministers and ultimately will be accountable to Ministers.

Mrs McInnes explained: “This means that Scotland’s emergency services will in future be at the beck and call of the government.

“They will set their priorities, meaning they will be less responsive to our local needs and circumstances.

“I have also warned that the reforms will lead to a loss of police officers and the closure of retained fire stations as resources are drawn to the Central Belt.

“These emergency services reforms are not driven by the need for modernisation but by the Government’s centralisation agenda – taking power away from local communities and putting it in the hands of ministers.”

The new national emergency services are due to come into operation on April 1, 2013.