Policing in the North-east will suffer should a single Scottish Police Force become a reality according to the Grampian Joint Branch Board (GJBB) of the Scottish Police Federation.
It has voiced concerns over the proposed structural changes within the Scottish Police Service and the impact they would have for policing in the likes of Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
Representing over 98% of all police officers working in the Grampian Police area, the GJBB are concerned about the impact structural change within the Scottish Police Service will have on the ability to provide a service to the people of the North East.
Glen Erskine, GJBB secretary, explained that the Police Service itself recently issued an options report from a group called the ‘Sustainable Policing Project’; the ACPOS (Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland) lead was DCC Richardson from Strathclyde Police.
Commenting on the report Mr Erskine said: “This report is no more than a document which is written to provide the Scottish Government with only one option for the future; that option being a single Scottish Police Force.”
GJBB chairman Mike Kennedy and Mr Erskine, met with DCC Richardson after the report was published to raise their concerns on how policing in the North-east will change if the proposed change were to occur.
Following the meeting Mr Erskine commented: “It was clear after that meeting was complete that the people of the North-east will indeed suffer in terms of service delivery if and when the change occurs.
“At this time Grampian Police delivers a very high level of service and it does so on budget. DCC Richardson admitted that if and when change occurs that level of service will reduce dramatically.
“ He even went as far as to say that Grampian Police delivers too good a service to the people it serves. The GJBB does not support any reduction in service delivery and we see change as a complete negative for the people of the North East. It was clear to see that Strathclyde Police as a service does not and cannot deliver the same high level as we do in Grampian.
“Change will only bring benefits for those in the Central belt and that will arise out of the loss of police numbers from our area to theirs.
“There is a real concern amongst our members about what we will be able to deliver in the future, but guaranteed if we do change the only one to suffer will be the people of the North-east.”
Commenting on what the changes would mean for Peterhead and Fraserburgh police offices, Mr Erskine added: “It would be fair to say that with less officers that many stations will remain or become un-manned more of the time, there could also be reduced response times and a potential reduction in clear up rates.”
It is understood that if the proposed changes went ahead Grampian Police Force could see a 300 - 400 reduction in officers.
Commenting, Grampian Police Chief Constable Colin McKerracher told us: “I am not against change – in the changed financial climate the whole of the public sector needs to adapt and change. As Policing professionals it’s important to contribute to the debate to ensure the high quality of service that we have worked hard to achieve is retained.
“There is no single view in ACPOS of the appropriate number of police forces in Scotland. This is fundamentally because the work to evidence the options is incomplete. That work must highlight the integrity of the figures and assumptions being used and must identify the real cost of any proposed change and the length of time it will take to realise any benefits. It must also clearly show how many police officers will be lost in Scotland as a result of a restructure away from 8 forces.
“There are six Chief Constables including myself that are personally against a single national police force on the basis of no clearly evidenced case for such change.
“Unless hard evidence exists that restructure saves money, preserves a quality service and maintains police numbers, we should not be rushed into change.”