Police and fire services facing overhaul

Wednesday 20th April'Inspector Stuart Davidson'Community Safety Officer Helen McMiken
Wednesday 20th April'Inspector Stuart Davidson'Community Safety Officer Helen McMiken

RADICAL changes are planned for Dumfries and Galloway’s emergency services following First Minister Alex Salmond’s announcement of a complete overhaul of policing and fire-fighting provision.

The region’s chief constable, Patrick Shearer, reacted swiftly by pledging his force would strive to maintain the level of service expected by the public in the run-up to the merging of all eight Scottish police forces into a single unit.

But he admitted there was uncertainty about how the combining of the separate forces would work in practice. And he praised the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary for its “proud history” as it prepares to be absorbed into the new service.

The sweeping changes were announced by Mr Salmond as he outlined 15 Bills to be introduced in parliament. The most controversial was clearly for a single police force and single fire service in Scotland, which could be in place within three years.

Mr Salmond said: “After detailed consideration of all the evidence available, we are persuaded that a single police service and a single fire and rescue service are the right options. This is the only way to maintain the number of officers in every community.”

Chief Constable Shearer said: “This brings to a close significant debate and consultation over many months on the future of the structure of the police service in Scotland. The task is now to work together, with all Scottish forces and the Scottish government to develop an effective programme of reform to bring this about, keeping in mind of course that our priority is to continue to deliver a quality police service to our communities.

“At this early stage there are very many questions which require to be answered. This will be the most significant change in the history of Scottish policing and we must make sure that through the turmoil of organisational and structural change we will continue to respond to the needs of the community in tackling and preventing crime.

“Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary has a very proud history in Scottish policing terms and the people of the region rightly expect a quality service from their police force. It is now up to us to work hard to ensure this new service continues to deliver and maintain this quality of service for our communities.”

Last month, we reported on rumours that Newton Stewart fire station could be facing budget cuts which would reduce the staffing levels and take away one appliance.

No-one yet knows the set-up the new legislation will bring, but it is undoubtedly an unsettled time for firefighters in the region.

Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue Chief Colin Scott said: “While our professional view on a regional model was the preferred option of local government, fire conveners and council leaders, we believe the time has come when all stakeholders must work together to deliver the government’s preferred option. This is only the beginning of the journey towards reform and there is much to be done to ensure the single service continues to meet standards.

“All those who continue to deliver the fire and rescue service in Scotland are clearly anxious about their future and it is for the leaders of the service to work with government and others to provide as much information and clarity as the plans for a single service develop. We have a highly professional and motivated workforce who are committed to public service, and we need to do all we can to represent their best interests.”

Other Bills include minimum pricing for alcohol, a council tax levy on empty homes, clampdown on football violence and the rights of young people.