Scotland

Holyrood committee to review Police and Fire Reform Act

Police officers

An inquiry has been launched into the centralisation of Scotland's police and fire services, five years to the day since it took place.

Holyrood's justice committee has called for views on the legislation which created Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

The services had each consisted of eight regional organisations before national bodies were set up in 2013.

MSPs want to examine how effective the move has been.

The mergers came into effect following the Police and Fire Reform Act of 2012.

Since then, Police Scotland in particular has faced criticism over a number of issues.

The service is currently looking for its third chief, while the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) - one of several bodies created by the legislation - is on its third chief and third chairperson.

In a statement, the justice committee said it would scrutinise the reform act to see if there were parts which could be improved, as well as looking at areas where it was "working well".

It also wants to "engage" with organisations created by the legislation, as well as those who closely interact with them.

Image copyright SFRS

Justice committee convener Margaret Mitchell said the last five years had seen "unprecedented change" in fire and police services.

She said: "While undoubtedly there are examples of resilience and partnership working, there have also been some problem areas identified since the mergers.

"In particular, the committee is keen to establish whether the issues faced by the services are to be expected as 'teething problems' or whether legislative changes are needed after five years."

'Evolving challenges'

A Scottish government spokeswoman said the reforms had provided national specialist capabilities "that would not have been possible in the past, allowing us to respond more effectively to the evolving challenges of keeping people safe in a modern Scotland".

She added: "Ministers recognise that a change of such scale and significance as the formation of Police Scotland and the SFRS was always likely to present challenges but the independent evaluation of reform - published in February - is clear about the benefits we have seen delivered."

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: "Police Scotland's challenges have been well documented and, to be frank, after five years a lot of the teething issues should have been sorted out.

"The creation of a national fire service has not been without its problems.

"There are major reforms currently under way which offer a chance to reshape a service that will be fit for the future.

"However, there are legitimate concerns that must be addressed if the public are to have confidence that local communities will continue to be protected."

The committee's call for evidence on the legislation runs until 24 May.

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