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Single police and fire services

08/09/2011

The creation of a single police and a single fire & rescue service will safeguard the vital frontline services communities depend on, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said today.

Watch the Statement to Parliament

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd0iKTbj2lY

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr MacAskill set out the benefits of police and fire reform, which come against the backdrop of significant budget cuts by the Westminster government.

He also outlined detailed proposals on how the Scottish Police Service and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service will carry out their duties free from political interference, and protect and improve local services across Scotland.

Read the Cabinet Secretary's speech

Single police and fire services for Scotland will:

  • Deliver estimated savings of £130 million a year and £1.7 billion over 15 years
  • Reduce duplication and overheads across eight police and eight fire & rescue services, freeing up resources for frontline policing and fire & rescue services
  • Establish a strong, formal relationship between each service and each of Scotland's 32 local authorities, creating designated local officers for each council area who will work with the Council and other partners to meet local priorities and needs
  • Ensure clear separation between Ministers and the operational responsibilities of services. As at present, Ministers will not be able to give instructions on such matters
  • Give all communities access to national and specialist services and expertise such as murder investigation teams, firearms teams and fire investigations, as and when they are needed
  • Improve Scotland's capacity to tackle national threats such as terrorism and serious organised crime and to respond to incidents such as severe winter weather.

A consultation paper and Outline Business Cases were published to coincide with the Justice Secretary's statement. The eight week consultation sets out proposals on how the new single Scottish services will work in practice, and seeks views on the detail of the new structures.

Mr MacAskill said:

"All of our communities are rightly proud of the professionalism and dedication of our police and fire & rescue services, they are a credit to Scotland. Crime is now at a 35-year low and detection rates are improving, helped by 1,000 extra officers on the streets. Fire deaths are now 50 percent lower than a decade ago.

"However the future of these excellent services is under threat from the spectre of huge financial cuts from Westminster - and the Scottish Government will not let this happen. But we have the opportunity to make a virtue of necessity. By reforming, we can make sure money is spent on the frontline and not on unnecessary duplication across eight services.

"The case is clear - single services for Scotland give us the best possible chance of protecting our communities from cuts by freeing up resources for frontline policing and fire & rescue services, retaining local services for local communities. They will deliver estimated savings of £130 million every year.

"We have consulted widely and engaged with people across the services, with councils and communities, and considered all of the evidence. There is broad support across Parliament for single services and there is strong consensus that we need to reform to safeguard the hard-fought gains the services have made.

"Both services will be held to account by new, independent bodies. In police, the Lord Advocate and Procurators Fiscal will continue to have responsibility for the direction of criminal investigations.

"Reform will protect local services and strengthen connections with communities. The new services will devolve a lot of power to local area commanders, who will be given significant autonomy to deliver the right priorities for communities. At the same time we will ensure more local councillors have a say in shaping services in their area. Parliament will also have more opportunities to scrutinise the services and hold them to account.

"Scotland depends on our police and fire &rescue services, and the proposals I have outlined before Parliament today give the best chance of sustaining and strengthening the local services across Scotland which communities, quite rightly, value so much.

"Existing structures were created in 1975 when regional councils were established and don't reflect modern Scotland. Reform allows us to create first class police and fire services to serve communities for generations to come."