THE public is being asked for its views on how the move to a single Scotland-wide police force has affected local policing.
A Holyrood committee is gathering evidence to establish what difference the merger of Scotland’s eight forces to form Police Scotland on April 1 has made on the ground.
The move follows the appearance of Chief Constable Sir Stephen House in front of the policing sub-committee last week, when MSPs quizzed him on topics including the closure of police station counters, his policy on Edinburgh’s saunas and the dramatic increase in stop and searches.
Police chiefs propose closing public counters at ten Edinburgh and Lothians police stations currently used by more than 100,000 people a year and slashing the opening hours at seven others.
A series of raids on city saunas and requests to the council to refuse some of them public entertainment licences led to claims of a move away from the Capital’s traditional pragmatic approach, which the police have denied.
And there has been a steep rise in the use of stop and search powers in Edinburgh – 8259 times between April and June this year compared with 4706 in the same period in 2012.
The city council is also considering cutting funding for community police officers amid concerns they are being redeployed to other duties.
Committee convener Christine Grahame said: “The aims of reform relating to local policing were to protect and improve local services and strengthen the link between services and communities.
“We want to know how the newly merged Police Scotland force is bedding in across the country and whether people have noticed any benefits or deterioration in the service they have come to expect from their local police.
“There has already been a lot of coverage about the closure of police counters and the perception that policing practices are being standardised across the country at the detriment of local flexibility.
“We want to hear from the people on the receiving end of local policing. I’d encourage local communities across Scotland to make their views known to us.”
The Evening News’ Save Our Stations campaign has attracted almost 1200 signatures calling for a rethink on the counter closures.
Sir Stephen admitted at the committee last week that the official police consultation had received just 69 comments from members of the public.
He also told the committee he had “no issue” with Edinburgh’s sauna stance.
He said: “I didn’t come into office with a view of sorting this out and making everywhere like Glasgow. If the council wants to operate a different system they can.”
And he insisted there were no targets for the number of stop and searches carried out since the new nationwide force he controls was formed seven months ago.
Written submissions can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, Room T2.40, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP. The deadline is 5pm on November 29.