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News : Justice Secretary Urged to Halt Aberdeen Police Call Centre Closure
Aberdeen, UK, July 17, 2015 -- Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has been urged to halt controversial plans to close a police control room and service centre in Aberdeen.
The call was made by north-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald who fears the move would "pile more pressure" on staff in other facilities across Scotland and damage public confidence.
He said the M9 tragedy which led to a three-day delay in responding to a fatal crash near Stirling confirmed that the "quality of response is even more important than the time it takes to answer the call".
John Yuill, 28, was found dead inside the blue Renault Clio when police eventually discovered it on July 8 and his girlfriend, Lamara Bell, 25, died in hospital at the weekend.
Police Scotland plans to close call centres in Aberdeen and Inverness in September and December respectively.
It wants to create a "virtual service centre operated across three existing sites" at Bilston Glen near Edinburgh, Govan in Glasgow and Motherwell.
Mr Matheson has directed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to carry out a full review of all call handling and processes within police contact, command and control centres.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said pressing ahead with the closures to save money before getting to the bottom of the M9 incident "would be the wrong thing to do".
But a force spokesman said: "We remain committed to the programme and are in discussions with the Scottish Police Authority."
Mr Macdonald has said the government must take some responsibility for the actions of the organisation they created.
"There are a number of failings within the current call handling systems in Scotland, from low staff morale and problems recruiting and retaining staff, to the delays in answering and dealing with calls," he added.
"The loss of local knowledge which will occur when further facilities are closed will only make this situation more dangerous for local communities.
"It is right that an investigation and a review have been ordered, but SNP ministers must call a halt now to closures planned for later this year.
"Only by confirming that local emergency calls will be handled by local staff can confidence be restored in this vital public service."
A Scottish Government spokesman said agreement on the siting of contact, command and control centres was a matter for the force with the oversight of the Scottish Police Authority.
"Police service reform and the creation of Police Scotland was widely supported on a cross-party basis, and is safeguarding policing in Scotland from Westminster budget cuts," he added.
"Policing in Scotland is now more accountable than ever before, with an unprecedented level of scrutiny since the move to a single service.
"In addition, the cabinet secretary for justice has this week directed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to carry out a full independent review of all call handling and processes within centres which will consider current capacity and capability, and clearly identify any issues so they can be promptly remedied.
"It is not appropriate to prejudge the results of this review, or the independent PIRC investigation.
"It is very important both are now allowed to conclude so that all the facts are established."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Police Scotland:
The Police Service of Scotland is the primary police service of Scotland. It was formed in 2013 with the merger of all eight territorial police forces in Scotland and the specialist services of the Scottish Police Services Authority, including the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. Although not formally absorbing it, the merger also resulted in the winding down of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.
Published: Monday, July 20, 2015