My answer was that it was hardly responsible government on the part of the SNP to say they'd meet their extra 1000 police officers pledge while cutting back office jobs. What's the point of having those extra officers if they're stuck in the office filling in forms and doing the intelligence work themselves. Years of work have gone into creating a civilian support structure so that bobbies can be out there on the beat catching criminals and the SNP are just discarding that.
They've been dead sleekit about the whole Police re-organisation. Their 2011 manifesto was very woolly on the subject and when they were pressed, Kenny MacAskill hinted that around 3 or 4 police forces would remain.He was clearly hedging his bets as every police force outside the major cities were against a single force and there was considerable concern in local communities about it. The minute the SNP got their majority, they reverted to centralising type and went for a single force.
MacAskill wrote to all police staff promising no compulsory redundancies and no changes to terms and conditions of employment last October. If today's Sunday Herald report is to be believed, both of these promises are not worth the paper they are written on. Special payments to police officers look to be under threat as well as £300 million in cuts over the next three and a half years.
Liberal Democrats have opposed a single force from the start. I wrote about it way back in January 2011. Apart from the fact that it will concentrate way too much power for law enforcement in the hands of two people, the Chief Constable and the Justice Secretary, there's going to be less local control over policing. You can't have one force properly meeting the diverse needs of communities from Stromness to Elgin to Kelso to Glasgow. It seems that our concerns are now being proven right.
Willie Rennie is quoted in the Herald article saying:
These cuts are even worse than we feared and what was set out in the outline business case. The costly upheaval of centralising our local police forces will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the police.
It is vital support staff that are to pay the price for the SNP's costly reorganisation. For years we have worked to create police forces with the right level of support staff to help our front-line officers do their jobs. The SNP are reversing that good work to pay for their obsession with centralising control. The Justice Secretary must come before Parliament to explain himself.The thing is, if we can't believe a personal letter to staff from the Justice Secretary, how on earth can we believe anything else the SNP says to us about how independence will turn out? They're making all sorts of claims, EU membership being the prime example, that they have no evidence to substantiate and when someone tries to get to the truth under FOI legislation, they blow our money to maintain secrecy.
Again, as I said on the Big Debate the other day, the SNP have to remember that they have to govern for the next two years. People need healthcare, decent education and jobs. The Police cuts, and the broken promises associated with them, will be beginning to bite by the time the Autumn of 2014 comes round. I could do with knowing what exams my daughter is going to be sitting in 2015 sooner rather than later, and so could she. It might be all about independence for the SNP, but for the rest of us, life and its challenges and milestones go on. I was never going to vote for independence anyway, but if they screw up secondary education, nobody will have any confidence in their constitutional claims.