Police counter closures: Public anger at plans

The News campaign has provided food for thought to chief Sir Stephen House. Picture: Robert Perry
The News campaign has provided food for thought to chief Sir Stephen House. Picture: Robert Perry
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CHIEF Constable Sir Stephen House has now been presented with 1800 reasons why he should think again on ­controversial plans to close police stations to the public.

Police Scotland has already relented on proposals to shut public counters at three stations – in South Queensferry, Linlithgow and Tranent – following the Evening News “Save Our Stations” campaign.

But the pressure is still on Sir Stephen for a change of heart on the other seven ­stations in Edinburgh and the Lothians whose front desks face the axe.

More than 1800 people have now signed petitions, returned coupons, written letters or sent emails in support of the Evening News “Save Our ­Stations” campaign.

That response dwarfs the numbers who took part in the police’s own consultation, which included just 93 ­individual representations from members of the public.

Police Scotland’s original plans involved closing ­public counters at ten stations in Edinburgh and the Lothians currently used by more than 100,000 people a year. Ten more would have their opening hours slashed.

Last month, police chiefs scrapped the plans to close the counters at South Queensferry and Linlithgow and last week the Evening News revealed Tranent would also stay open to the public.

Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP and former policeman Mike Crockart said: “The clear message is ‘do a proper consultation up front and listen to what people say’.”

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “The campaign has illustrated the importance which people attach to their local police ­station and how much they appreciate the ­ability to call in personally to raise an issue.

“Police Scotland have obviously been convinced the decision on three of the stations should be reversed. If the same attention was given to the others, they might realise there is an important case for keeping them open too.” Lothian Tory MSP Gavin Brown praised the Evening News for marshalling support and keeping the issue to the fore. He said: “It’s ­welcome news that some stations have been saved, but there is still a way to go.”

Still under threat are Balerno, Oxgangs, Craigmillar, Corstorphine, Bonnyrigg, Armadale and West Calder.

Labour’s Neil Finday said: “They have made the correct decision on Linlithgow. West Calder and Armadale are both growing towns where the demands on policing will increase, not decrease. What Police Scotland are proposing seems to be illogical.” Fellow Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “It is encouraging they are rowing back in some areas. They seem to be responding to public pressure and recognising the proposals were ill-founded.” She said the same attitude was now needed when it came to city stations.

Police Scotland said it was still consulting staff and ­considering counter proposals but could give no timescale for decisions.

RATIONALE ON NUMBERS

SCOTTISH Police Authority chairman Vic Emery has called for an objective assessment of how many police officers Scotland requires.

He said he backed the Scottish Government’s pledge to keep current numbers.

However, Mr Emery said: “I believe there is a general acceptance that there is an arbitrary element to how we have ended up at the figure of 17,234 officers.”

He said a Dutch professor had told him that the Netherlands used a calculation that there should be one police officer for every 5000 citizens, but that too was “pretty arbitrary”.

Mr Emery said: “I am an engineer by background. I don’t think it is beyond us to come up with a more informed rationale for the size of police service we need.”

He said he had had discussions with academics on the issue.