Police and Fire Rescue (Scotland) Bill
Kezia and her Labour colleagues have been working hard in the Parliament to ensure that the SNP’s Police and Fire Rescue Bill, which provides for an amalgamation of current regional boards into one national, Scotland-wide board, works for people and communities across Scotland.
In our 2011 manifesto, Labour committed itself to the principal of a single police force and a single fire and rescue service for Scotland. However, our essential caveat to this commitment was that specialised back room staff should not be replaced by front line officers. This is a particular issue in the police service, where the Conservative/SNP project of 1000 extra police officers may be used to fill essential back office support roles rather than provide communities with extra safety. As so often with this SNP government, the devil is to be found in the detail of their policies.
Labour is also concerned about the effect of a weakening of the link between Local Government and Police and Fire Rescue Service’s boards. Local accountability and knowledge is critical to both service delivery and democracy. A strong link to local authorities also has the added benefit of exempting these services from paying VAT – removing this link could almost wipe out any efficiency savings made resulting from amalgamation through higher running costs.
In short, the Labour Group in The Scottish Parliament is supportive of the principal of national bodies for police and fire services, although we have significant concerns over the detail of the SNP’s proposed bill. We will fight tooth and nail to preserve strong local accountability.