As someone who fully backs the Tory-led UK government’s cuts to public services, Alex Fergusson MSP has a nerve criticising anyone over the thousands of police staff losing their jobs (Letters, The Galloway Gazette, October 5).
He claims the introduction of a single police force is the cause. The reality is the cuts he supports mean police staff are losing their jobs right now – 1000 in the past two years alone in Scotland, including here in Dumfries and Galloway – all before a single police force has been introduced. In England, Mr Fergusson’s Tory party has slashed police budgets by 20 percent – axing 15,000 police officers in the process – and that’s with no plans for a single force.
Supporting a single police force is not the same as supporting police staff job losses, if that single force is properly funded and local accountability improved. The Scottish government’s proposals fall short on both counts, but that is why Labour MSPs proposed a series of amendments to the Police and Fire Reform Bill in the Scottish Parliament and did not simply, as Mr Fergusson claims, “back the legislation to the hilt”.
But we know that the scale of the Tories cuts to our public services means the status quo is not an option and maintaining the bureaucracy of a nine force structure would actually make the cuts to frontline policing deeper.
A single force could work for our area if more services are based in communities such as Dumfries and Galloway, but the SNP has chosen to centralise them in central belt instead. The funding model adopted by the SNP also means that the new force will require to pay millions in VAT to Mr Fergusson’s Tory government instead of investing those funds in policing. Public sector union Unison also highlights the fact that political targets only for police officer numbers, targets, incidentally supported by Mr Fergusson, has meant almost all cuts in policing in Scotland have fallen on police staff who only make up 15% of the budget. Unison makes the valid point that cuts in police staff have meant the equivalent of 500 police officers have been taken off the beat to do the backroom jobs they are not best qualified to do at huge additional cost.
We are fortunate that here in Dumfries and Galloway we have such committed police officers and support staff delivering a first class service to local people. Those officers and support staff expect their local politicians to debate how we best make the reality of a single force work for our area in a grown-up, fact-based manner. Mr Fergusson’s flippant contribution to that debate in your letters page fails on both counts.
Councillor Ronnie Ogilvie,
Labour’s Police and Fire spokesman,
Dumfries and Galloway Council.