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Future Police and Other Blue Light Structures for the Highlands and Islands

Issued: 5 Sep 2010

Future Highland Control and Accountability of Police and Other Blue Light Services

Cllr Ian Ross Vice-Convener of the Northern Joint Police Board welcomes the Highland Council's call for an open debate on the future structure of Blue Light Services in the Highlands and Islands.

Cllr. Ross stated, "The Highland Council has recognised this very real threat to local control and accountability across the "Blue Light Emergency" Services in the Highlands and Islands. The Council's view is that there is a need to explore the creation of a unified Service for the Highlands and Islands; one where there can be a sharing of resources, with the introduction of significant savings and efficiencies, but crucially with the retention of local control and democratic accountability. The potential exists to expand on this to include other blue light services and also neighbouring geographical areas with similar rural and remote service delivery challenges."

Ian Ross confirmed he had been involved in informal discussions with Highland Council colleagues over this proposal and added, " I fully endorse the need to examine options which acknowledge the current harsh financial realties, but seek to protect what is in the best interests of the Highlands and Islands. I do not think we should shy away from radical thinking and solutions - particularly where this is so much to lose for the Highlands and Islands. We now need to promote further discussion and ensure the options considered are not limited to traditional single Service, silo based thinking, which in some eyes would inevitably lead to centralisation outside of the Highlands and Islands. The views and thoughts of the wider Highland public will play an important in delivering Service solutions which are "right" for our area."

Police budgets are likely to experience a cut of up to 10% next financial year and potentially a real terms reduction of some 25% over the next three to four years. This is considered an unsustainable level of future funding and means the current police structures are unlikely to be maintained across the Highlands and Islands and also Scotland. The suggested Police Force structure seems to be either one or three Forces for Scotland, with an active promotion of the single Force model.

Cllr Ross said, "This would inevitably mean the senior Force leadership would be located in the Central Belt of Scotland, with very limited understanding of the realties and challenges of policing in rural and remote areas. There is no doubt there would also be limited Highland and Islands presence in any future Police Authority and this has significant implications for local democratic accountability."

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme