CONTROVERSIAL plans to close police station public counters should have been presented to local scrutiny committees before being published, according to HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland.
George Graham said the committees, appointed by local authorities, should have been consulted on the proposals in advance of their unveiling on October 1.
He told MSPs the committees had a crucial part to play in the new policing arrangements following the merger of Scotland’s eight former forces into a single police service.
But in Edinburgh, SNP councillor Mike Bridgman, convener of the police and fire committee, said the only notice they received of the closure proposals was an e-mail a day or two before the official announcement. He said: “We had also had a committee meeting a few days earlier, but nothing was said.”
Police Scotland originally proposed closing counters at ten stations in Lothian, including five in Edinburgh, and slashing opening hours at seven more.
But following the Evening News’ Save Our Stations campaign and a massive public outcry, police chiefs have done a U-turn on two of the stations – South Queensferry and Linlithgow – which will now remain open to the public, and are still reviewing the others.
At a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s policing sub-committee, Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson raised the counter closures with Mr Graham.
He asked: “Would you have expected local communities would have been consulted and informed of these options ahead of an announcement of a strategy which included over 60 counter closure proposals?”
Mr Graham replied: “I would expect on any significant changes or issues like that, that the local community – and this is where I think the local scrutiny and engagement bodies have such a role to play – that they could and should be consulted on all things that affect them.”
He said he was not familiar with the details of the consultation process on counter closures, but he added: “I would expect that to be part and parcel of it.”
The Police Scotland plan proposed the stations at Oxgangs and Balerno should lose their counters altogether are, while Craigmillar and Corstorphine would transfer their operations to local community hubs. Portobello, Howdenhall and West End would see their opening hours cut.
Councillor Bridgman said: “We got notice of it just prior to it going in the newspapers. The scrutiny committee didn’t get sight of it until it was upon us.
“I think when there’s something strategic that affects the local policing plan, the scrutiny committee should be more closely involved.”