Co-operating to keep Scotland's streets safe

Ahead of a statement by the SNP Government on the future of policing an SNP MSP has called for clarity on Labour’s plans for a single police force after prominent Labour councillor Eric Milligan joined other Labour colleagues in opposing the Labour leader’s plans for policing.

There are sharp divisions within the Labour party over the issue as Labour councillors on Highland council have opposed the policy as has Dunfermline Labour MP Thomas Docherty – formerly a close colleague of Labour’s justice spokesperson Richard Baker - raising questions about how much consultation Mr Gray has taken on the issue.

In contrast the SNP has been working with police and fire services across the country on developing a suitable policy.

Commenting SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee – said:

“The SNP Government’s delivery of over 1,000 extra police officers has helped make Scotland safer and seen crime rates hit a 32 year low.

“And our budget for Scotland guarantees that those 1,000 extra police officers will remain in place to keep our communities safe.  

“Our priority is a police service that can do its job with the focus on police on the street and that is what the SNP will continue to do at the next election.

“However Labour’s policy is as incoherent as ever.  Their leader claimed he had bold plans for leading his party on policing but now his party is rebelling against him. Unlike the SNP he is clearly failing to consult and co-operate with others on this issue.

“Only today we hear Labour’s Eric Milligan has joined Labour’s Highlands councils and Labour MP Thomas Docherty in opposing their party leader’s plans.

“The issue for Labour’s leader is if he cannot get his party to follow him on this issue, and fails the test of consultation and co-operation, why should anyone trust him."

Notes

1. From today’s Press Association:

“[C]ouncillor Eric Milligan, who sits on the Lothian and Borders Police Board, said the idea of a single force betrays the localised history of Scottish policing and threatens the independence of the force…

…The Labour councillor's stance is at odds with his party leader Iain Gray, who was the first to call for "a Scottish national police force with strengthened local accountability" at Scottish Labour's conference, also in October.

2. A motion debated at Highland Council last October, and supported by the local Labour group, opposed a centralised police force in Scotland. The Labour group are part of the ruling administration with the Liberal Democrats.

The motion debated at Highland Council on Thursday 28th October is as follows:
“Highlands and Islands Emergency Service

That the Highland Council rejects any proposal to centralise the provision of policing and fire services in Scotland and supports efforts to ensure that local accountability, control and service provision are delivered in the Highlands and Islands through closer integration and joint organisational arrangements”.

Signed: Dr M E M Foxley, Mr J Laing, Mr J Gray

Source

3. In the Dunfermline Press of 4th November, 2010 it was reported:

“Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty has criticised plans to cut the number of police forces, underlining the issues that would face Fife.”

4. Yet at the Scottish Labour conference in Oban Iain Gray not only emphatically supported the idea of a single national force but implicitly attacked any consideration of other options:

“I said on television that we had to look at the number of police forces in Scotland. Four days later Alex  Salmond pops up with “bobbies before boundaries”.  What does that mean? Why so timid.  I believe that the time has come for a Scottish national police force, but with strengthened local accountability for local policing. “

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