Debate still rages over centralised police force

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THE announcement this week from the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland), Chief Constable Kevin Smith, that a single police force is expected to begin operating from April next year has brought a difference in opinion between two political parties in the region.

Dumfries and Galloway Labour’s Police and Fire Spokesman, Councillor Ronnie Ogilive, said: “Although the Scottish Parliament hasn’t yet passed the law to merge Dumfries and Galloway Police force with the others across Scotland to create a single force, the expectation from senior officers that it will be operating in just over a year’s time is significant. Local people in Dumfries and Galloway are still looking for a cast iron guarantee from the SNP that their plans to move to a single police force won’t be used as a cover for cuts in our region. We have already seen the SNP slash police support staff in our region, which means police officers need to spend more time behind a desk than out on the beat.

“Time and again the SNP forget about Dumfries and Galloway in favour of the central belt and north of Scotland, so people are understandably anxious that the SNP could end up doing the same again when they form a single police force. We won’t accept any moves by the SNP to centralise police services and take police off the beat in our region. We need to draw a line in the sand right at the outset that no reduction in frontline services whatsoever would be acceptable.”

On Wednesday the SNP Vice Convenor of Police Fire and Rescue Committee said: “Kenny MacAskill gave that assurance over police numbers the last time he visited Dumfries. The SNP delivered 1,000 extra officers for Scotland – something Labour both failed to commit to then said couldn’t be done. Our record is quite clear – the SNP can be trusted to protect front-line policing. That after all is the reason for moving to a single force – in order to protect front-line policing in the face of swingeing cuts from Westminster.

Councillor Iain Dick added: “It is utter hypocrisy, given the extra police officers delivered by the SNP, and their commitment to the single police force, for the Labour party to criticise this process.”