MSP hits out over speed of reform

CENTRAL Scotland list Siobhan McMahon MSP has urged the Scottish Government to place quality before cost in its reform of police and fire services in Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Police and Fire Reform Bill will amalgamate Scotland’s eight police forces and eight fire services into a single police force and single fire service.

The changes will include significant reductions to back office police staff, projected to be up to 2,000.

Senior police chiefs have already raised concerns that the Bill is being rushed, and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has admitted the speed of reform was being driven by a desire to cut costs.

He told Parliament: “I’ve always been quite clear that I actually came into situ having not been advocating for a single service, but the budget cuts made it a necessity.

“The timescale for reform is challenging but financial realities mean we need to take early action to protect and improve services.”

Under the Bill’s current timescale, the reform could take effect as early as April 2013.

Miss McMahon said: “This Bill constitutes the greatest upheaval to police and fire services for a generation. It is essential that we get it right.

“Cost should never be placed before quality, and rushed legislation is rarely good legislation.

“The Scottish Government rammed through its Sectarianism Bill in a very short timeframe, and we were left with legislation that is largely redundant. We cannot afford to let the same thing happen here.

“That is why I find Mr MacAskill’s comments, which suggest for him the priority is to cut costs, not improve services, which is concerning to me. The priority is striking the right balance between cost and quality, frontline and support staff, integration and local accountability.

“We have a responsibility as legislators to ensure that any public sector reform has the interests of the people at its heart, and I would urge the Scottish Government to take this into account.”