ALEX Salmond has dismissed concerns about police station counter closures, officers filling in for civilian staff and claims of a “target culture” at Police Scotland.
The First Minister was challenged in the Scottish Parliament about a string of controversies sparked by the move to a single police force, but he insisted people should focus on the “substantial achievements” of record police numbers and a 39-year low in recorded crime.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie cited comments by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House to Holyrood’s public accounts committee that there was no policy to use officers to cover the duties of redundant or retired civilian staff while acknowledging it happened “on a daily basis”.
Mr Rennie said: “It is confirmed by the Chief Constable that police officers are being taken off the streets. We can add to that list police stations being shut to the public, control rooms being closed, Audit Scotland being scathing, chiefs being at loggerheads and the Scottish Police Authority saying that it just does not know where the savings will come from.”
Mr Rennie described the situation as a “grand mess”.
But Mr Salmond said: “Most people would regard the record number of police officers on the streets and in communities and a 39-year record low in crime as a substantial achievement.”
Earlier this week, police officers voiced fears their relations with the public were being damaged by pressure to meet targets. Police Scotland insist individual officers are not set targets, but officers claim pressure on divisional commanders to meet targets is passed down to police on the beat.
The merger of Scotland’s eight former forces into one police service, which took effect in April this year, is intended to save £1.1 billion by 2026. But spending watchdog Audit Scotland said it was not clear where the savings would be found.
Meanwhile, support continues to grow for the Evening News campaign for a rethink on police chiefs’ plans to close public counters at ten stations across the Lothians and slash opening hours at ten more.
Members of Tranent and Elphinstone community council in East Lothian spoke out against the proposal to close the front desk at Tranent.
Chairman Colin Martin said: “I’ve yet to speak to anyone in the town who agrees with these damaging proposals on local policing. Tranent needs a police station that is open to the public.”
East Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray said: “There was universal agreement that the plans are bad news for the town and risk setting back local policing.
“I will continue to do all I can to defeat the plans and keep Tranent’s police station open and accessible to local people.”