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Police and fire reform passed

27/06/2012

The Scottish Parliament has passed Government legislation to protect the future of police and fire and rescue services in Scotland.

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill creates a single Police Service of Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to serve local communities and meet the demands and challenges of the 21st century.

By reducing duplication across the eight police forces, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, the Scottish Police Services Authority and the eight fire and rescue services as well as working more effectively and efficiently, the legislation frees up resources for frontline services and saves £1.7 billion over 15 years.

Reform will safeguard frontline police and fire and rescue in our communities by creating designated local senior officers for every council area with a statutory duty to work with councils to shape local services.

Establishing single services will also ensure more equal access to national and specialist services and expertise such as major investigation teams, firearms teams and flood rescue, whenever and wherever they are needed. 

Key provisions of the legislation include:

  • Formal opportunities for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise the services 
  • New roles for councils to shape and scrutinise local delivery of police and fire and rescue services 
  • A designated local policing commander and local senior fire officer for each local authority area 
  • Clear responsibilities for the Chief Constable and, to ensure continued separation from Ministers, a new Scottish Police Authority with 11-15 members and a clear and strong remit to effectively hold the Chief Constable to account. 

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“Passing this legislation protects the future of police and fire and rescue services in Scotland. This is the most significant change to policing since 1967 and this Bill ensures our vital services are fit to face the challenges of the 21st century.

“Let me be absolutely clear – single services are the best way to protect frontline policing and fire and rescue. Our plans will make police and fire and rescue provision more efficient and effective. They will ensure more equal access to specialist and national services and strengthen the connection with communities.

“Our services are already excellent. Crime is at a 37 year low, helped by 1,000 extra police in Scotland and fire deaths are at their lowest level for a decade. Single services will not change that – but they offer us a unique opportunity to do more.

“We are making a virtue out of necessity. We must reform to save our services from Westminster cuts, but our plans will make police and fire and rescue in Scotland more efficient and effective – saving £1.7 billion over 15 years and freeing up resources to protect communities.

“Reform will protect local services by devolving significant power to local senior officers, who will help shape local priorities to meet local needs. At the same time, more local councillors will have the opportunity to shape and scrutinise services in their area. And Parliament will also have more opportunities to scrutinise the services and hold them to account.

“We have increased the size of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) board following representations from COSLA and others. The new SPA will hold the new Chief Constable to account, ensuring continued separation from Ministers.

“Work is continuing apace to ensure a smooth transition to the new services, which aim to go live on April 1 next year. The recruitment process for the Chief Fire Officer is well underway and the process for the Chief Constable and the Chair and Members of the SPA and SFRS will begin very shortly. We brought this process forward in response to representation.

“This legislation will ensure more effective and efficient services. It builds on strong foundations to create new single services delivered locally – services we can all be proud of.”

Chief Constable Kevin Smith, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), who is leading the reform of the service, said:

“We have reached another significant milestone in the move towards the new Police Service of Scotland. Parliament has now voted and passed the Bill which will allow for the creation of the new Service which will deliver policing across the whole country for decades to come.

“The single service won't be a success just because there is a new law - as crucial as that legal framework is. It will be a success because of its people and right now officers and staff at all ranks and grades from across the country are working hard to ensure the building blocks of the new Service are in place for April next year.

“Our priority in creating the new Service is to maintain the current high levels of policing performance and public confidence while enhancing the service we deliver for communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

“We are developing a new organisational structure which will maintain existing partnerships at both a local and national level. The new structure will also coordinate the delivery of excellent local policing across the whole of Scotland.

“As well designing the structure of the new organisation we are developing plans to introduce a single non-emergency number, making it easier for public to contact the police. We are also developing plans for a Specialist Crime Directorate which will encompass the good practice that exists across the country with Major Investigation Teams, Serious Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Units. These changes fit perfectly with the objectives of reform and will be visible examples of the Service operating as a single organisation.

“There will be no let up during the summer months and in the coming weeks we will see further significant steps towards the new Service with the process commencing to recruit the chair of the Scottish Police Authority and the first Chief Constable.

“Policing in Scotland is embedded in centuries of history and it has constantly evolved. The current reforms represent the latest evolution in Scottish policing and our aim is to create a police service that will continue to deliver the best possible service for the people of Scotland and one which our communities and everyone working in policing can continue to be proud of.”

David O’Connor, President of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), said:

“ASPS welcome this news as we have long held the view that a single police service for Scotland is the right thing to do. We firmly believe that police services should be built from local communities up and that this should be the focus of the new service. Police performance and public confidence have never be higher and our members see the creation of a single police service as a way to develop and improve policing across Scotland.”

Calum Steele, General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), said:  

“This is the single most important piece of legislation on the police and fire service passed in a generation. It’s not the end of the process by a long way as much remains to be done before and indeed after 1st April 2013.

“Scotland's Police service is delivering phenomenal results. Police numbers are at record levels and crime at lows not seen in nearly four decades. Protecting that achievement is essential.

“Restructuring provides the service with the opportunity to maintain police numbers and performance. We need only look south of the border where reorganisation has been ruled out, to see the alternative. Police numbers in England and Wales are expected to fall by nearly 16,000, morale is rock bottom, privatisation looms large and crime is beginning to rise. We recognise that overall public expenditure is reducing but don't believe the public in Scotland would accept that type of treatment of its police force.”

David Dalziel, Chair of Chief Fire Officers’ Association Scotland (CFOAS), said:

“This is a hugely important step on the road to a new Fire and Rescue Service for Scotland, delivering the robust legislative framework that will support our future work. We welcome the new Bill and support the amendments which have been agreed by MSPs in the chamber today.”

John Duffy, Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Scotland (FBU), said:

"The FBU welcomes the completion of Stage 3 of the Bill as this now allows all involved in the service to focus solely on developing a high quality single rescue service that will make Scotland a safer place to live in, work in or visit. "

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