The people of Scotland are being asked to contribute to the debate over reform of police and fire services after Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced that a consultation on specific options for change will begin next month.
Mr MacAskill told the Scottish Parliament a consultation will be launched to discuss three reform options for both services – eight separate boards with enhanced collaboration; a regional structure with fewer boards; and a single service.
The Justice Secretary said the Scottish Government wanted to move to a single fire service and he set out the arguments for the single force and regional force options for police with the objective of achieving a consensus on the way forward for both services.
He said that the current structure of fire and police in Scotland was not tenable and must be changed to ensure local services in all of Scotland’s communities are maintained in the face of the impending financial challenges imposed by Westminster.
The separate consultations on fire and police reform will run at the same time and their conclusions will be submitted to the Christie Commission to help inform the wider work being done to reform the public sector in Scotland.
Mr MacAskill said:
“I once again pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by our police and fire services on a daily basis to our communities.
“We have delivered one thousand additional police officers in our communities and that has helped result in a 32 year low in recorded crime. We have also seen fire deaths in Scotland continue to fall over the long term. These are real successes of which we should all be proud.
“However, in order to maintain those successes in the face of unprecedented budget cuts from Westminster, the status quo is no longer tenable. Moreover, the current configuration dates back to the 1970s. Structures need to be able to cope with the challenges of the 21st Century.
“Accordingly, we need to look at how we effectively structure our police and fire and rescue services to protect the frontline delivery that is essential to our communities.
“Policing and fire services in Scotland have historically and correctly been by consent. That is how we want it to remain and why are consulting.
“There has been some limited public comment but it is appropriate that we should widen the debate. We wish to try and see if we can reach a consensus as a country on the structures for our fire and police services for the 21st Century.
“I am, therefore, announcing plans for a consultation on the future options for both the police and fire and rescue services.”