Scotland

Single police and fire service to save £130m per year

A single police and fire service for Scotland will save an estimated £130m a year and £1.7bn over 15 years, the justice secretary has told MSPs.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Kenny MacAskill outlined forthcoming police and fire reform.

He said an eight-week consultation would now take place.

Labour's Johann Lamont welcomed the statement, but said it was short on detail. Tory MSP John Lamont also welcomed the move.

However, he wanted to know whether Mr MacAskill would back a move for elected police commissioners.

The minister told him he "was not persuaded" and he "would not be going down that route".

Mr MacAskill said existing structures were created in 1975, when regional councils were established, and that now "does not reflect modern Scotland".

He told the Holyrood chamber: "The case is clear - single services for Scotland give us the best possible chance of protecting our communities from cuts by freeing up resources for frontline policing and fire and rescue services, retaining local services for local communities.

"They will deliver estimated savings of £130m every year.

"We have consulted widely and engaged with people across the services, with councils and communities, and considered all of the evidence.

"There is broad support across parliament for single services and there is strong consensus that we need to reform to safeguard the hard-fought gains the services have made."

Mr MacAskill said;

  • both services will be held to account by new, independent bodies.
  • for the police, the Lord Advocate and procurators fiscal will continue to have responsibility for the direction of criminal investigations
  • power will be devolved to local area commanders
  • a consultation paper on the future of policing and one for the future of the fire service have been published to coincide with the statement
  • and reform aims to improve Scotland's capacity to tackle national threats such as terrorism and serious organised crime and to respond to incidents such as severe winter weather

The Tories and Labour have given their backing to the plan in principle, but the Scottish Liberal Democrats are against the idea.

The party's justice spokeswoman, Alison McInnes, said Mr MacAskill was silent on the cost of the changes.

She added: "It is disingenuous on the views of senior officers. It contradicts the Christie Commission report. It is hypocritical on the independence of the justice system.

"It is downright misleading on the consultation that was carried out.

"If he's going to start with a catalogue of misrepresentation, how can we believe a single word about his promises for the future?

"I urge Kenny MacAskill to turn over a new leaf and enter this next crucial stage of consultation with his ears and mind open."

Chief Constable Kevin Smith, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: "This is the most significant change to the Scottish Policing Service in its history but rest assured, we have the interests of our communities and our people at heart and we will succeed in this."

He said that policing had adapted and improved over the last generation.

He added: "Reform will provide us with the opportunity to continue that improvement and ensure we have a modern, highly adaptive service which will continue to deliver an excellent service now and into the future, because this reform must last for generations."

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