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News : Police Announce Call Centre Closures in Aberdeen and Inverness
Aberdeen and Inverness, Scotland, Jan 26, 2016 -- Police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness could close within months.
The "indicative timeline" suggests the Inverness call centre will be mothballed in August, with Aberdeen facing the same fate by October.
After the closures, 999 and 101 calls from north and north-east will be answered in one of three centres in the central belt, before being passed to Dundee who will then coordinate with local officers on the ground.
Fears have been raised that the closures are a "threat to the safety and security" of the public.
Plans to shut the centres had been put on hold after the M9 tragedy, where John Yuill and Lamara Bell were left stranded in their wrecked car – despite the crash being reported three days earlier.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland recommended keeping the centres open until there is "independent assurance" over call handling procedures.
But Justice Secretary Michael Matheson rejected the suggestion that any such review could actually reverse the closure, raising fears that it is merely a "box ticking exercise".
And last night a police spokesman confirmed the timeline for the closures.
However, he said: "This is an indicative timeline which will be subject to scrutiny and independent review prior to implementation, in keeping with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s recommendations.
"Police Scotland remains committed to protecting our frontline delivery and therefore the pace of change will be managed in a safe and assured way.
"No changes will be implemented until they have been approved by SPA."
Critics argue that closing the call centres in Aberdeen and Inverness will lead to a "loss of local knowledge" and be a "risk to the public" – although Police Scotland disputes this.
Last night, North East MSP Alex Johnstone said a "centralisation agenda" was putting lives at risk.
He said: "Police Scotland plans to shut emergency control rooms by the end of the year are a threat to safety and security and another blow for the jobs market.
"Events like the tragic deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell and the fact thousands of police calls in Dundee are going unanswered have not come out of the blue.
"They were predicted as a direct consequence of this Scottish Government’s centralisation agenda. Their record on police reform has been woeful."
Staff were informed of the proposals, which Police Scotland said would be "managed in a safe and assured way", yesterday.
Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman and North East MSP Alison McInnes urged the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – the body who oversee the force – to rethink the closures.
She said: "Staff have been left in limbo over these closures for far too long and morale in the control rooms is at rock bottom.
"The tragic M9 crash highlighted the dangers posed by poorly managed control rooms and if this is the route the SPA is intent on going down, any new system will need to be up and running at full capacity well before any closures go ahead.
"That means full complements of well-trained staff supported by the suitable systems with no loss of local knowledge."
Scottish Labour’s North East MSP Lewis Macdonald said he was "disappointed" that the new Chief Constable Phil Gormley had decided to press ahead with the closures.
He added: "Scottish Labour is clear that these control rooms will not be closed if we win the next election.
"Now it is up to voters in the north-east to have their say in May."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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More Editorial From Police Scotland
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: Wednesday, January 27, 2016