Police Scotland (Estate Review)
1. Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP):
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the reported Police Scotland estate review and how it will ensure the outcome has no adverse impact on service delivery. (S5T-00181)
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson):
The Police Scotland estate strategy, which was approved by the Scottish Police Authority on 24 June 2015, sets out a framework that has providing a service to local communities at its core and seeks to remodel the police estate to make it fit for the policing needs of the future. It includes a strong emphasis on sharing facilities with other public services, where possible.
The review of the police estate presents opportunities to increase collaboration with partners, share premises and join up services to communities. There are already examples of collaboration: in Cupar, the division leases and occupies a facility shared with Fife Council; in Fort William, a new shared police and ambulance station was opened in 2014; and in Aberdeen, a joint police and national health service medical practice was opened two years ago in the Ferryhill area.
The Scottish Police Authority has made it clear that local police commanders will play a leading role in deciding whether changes to the police estate are compatible with maintaining an effective local policing service. Engagement will be undertaken by local policing teams to ensure that future decisions are built on local consultation with communities and partners.
What is the timescale for the review? What discussions are taking place between Police Scotland, other agencies and local authorities on the potential for sharing sites?
The review of the estate identified a number of police stations that, in the police’s view, do not match the police’s current requirements, which are subject to some form of consultation with communities, partners and staff. Consultation will be carried out by local police teams, to ensure that decisions are based on local needs in communities. The nature of the consultation will be determined at local level and will depend on local circumstances and the change that is being considered. Anyone who has an interest in or view on the management of the police estate should engage fully with Police Scotland. We expect a range of local interests to be taken into account before firm proposals are made on individual stations.
I suspect that I am not alone in being concerned about how the news of a review and potential changes to local policing were made public. What lessons will Police Scotland take forward in communicating the review’s process, considerations and outcomes?
As the member might be aware, Police Scotland is continuing work on its estate review and the approach has been very much led at local level. Local commanders, through their local policing teams, will be responsible for taking forward engagement, but much of that work is still at an early stage. I encourage all members who have an interest in the matter to engage with local commanders and to express their views.
Of course, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority reflect on their approach to matters, but I emphasise to members that work is at a very early stage. They will have every opportunity to engage with local commanders when local consultation starts.
The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh):
I should let members know that there is a lot of interest in this issue.
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab):
Does the cabinet secretary appreciate that because of the way in which the proposals were revealed to the public—through a freedom of information request rather than by the police or the Government—communities are concerned that local policing will suffer? When was the Scottish Government informed of the review and potential closure of 58 sites? What discussions, if any, has the Government had with Police Scotland on the matter?
As I just said, the process is still at a very early stage. Police Scotland’s review of its estate is on-going and local commanders have identified 58 sites as part of the process. Engagement in the local communities that are affected has still to take place, because the police are considering how to take it forward at local level. The process is not being driven by the Scottish Police Authority at the centre; it is being taken forward by local commanders, through their local teams.
Engagement will start when Police Scotland, at local level, has determined what approach it wants to take. For example, in some of the 58 cases, Police Scotland might be looking at relocating to a shared facility with the local authority, health board or another part of the public sector. Some of that work is still being taken forward at local command level, and once it has been completed, the police will be in a position to engage with local communities on the options. Final sign-off on the matter will be for the Scottish Police Authority.
A full engagement process will be taken forward when the police at local divisional level have arrived at the best approach for their area.