Leader: ‘New bodies will be under close scrutiny’

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Today marks the first day of both Police Scotland and the Scottish fire service, the end of an era for Lothian and Borders and the arrival of a new dawn.

The livery is being gradually changed, the new senior officers are settling in and, to all intents and purposes, the public will probably not notice much of a change.

But the Scottish Government and top brass will also be acutely aware that from today, they and the new bodies will be under incredible scrutiny.

In any large organisation, things will go wrong, and things will inevitably go wrong sooner or later for the police and fire somewhere in Scotland.

The difference is that from now on any mistake will immediately be blamed, rightly or wrongly, on the single service, especially given the political capital to be made in the run-up to 2014.

It will be very difficult in the first few months to establish exactly how the new service is working and whether criticism or praise directed at it is justified.

Perhaps it will be six months, or even a year, before we know whether key targets are being met and whether the efficiency savings which have driven this change have had a detrimental impact on services.

You would expect that, being the capital city, Edinburgh will not see any noticeable change other than a new logo on the side of police cars and fire engines. One of the key tests will be how the new organisations work in more remote and rural areas where they currently have strong local accountability and will now suddenly be run from the Central Belt.

Good luck to all involved in what is a massive the change today. They will need it for the scrutiny which will inevitably follow.

Bridge users need say

It seems that First Minister Alex Salmond has decided that because the Scottish Government is paying for the new Forth Crossing, he will decide how it, and the existing crossing, are managed.

However, by excluding elected representatives from surrounding local authorities from the Forth Bridges Forum, Mr Salmond has left himself open to accusations of a power grab and is in danger of ignoring the wishes of bridge users.

The bridge has a major impact on the residents of Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife, from noise and nuisance to traffic gridlock.

Without direct input through local councillors it will be much harder for them to have their voices heard. The Scottish Government must not shroud the bridges in secrecy.