Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP today encouraged the SPA to enable all Scots to participate in a public consultation on the decision to allow the deployment of armed police on routine duties, following concerns the consultation is “inaccessible, needlessly complex and unnecessarily time-consuming”.
On Friday (10 October), Ms McInnes submitted a response to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) setting out the concerns of the Scottish Liberal Democrats over the manner in which the change in policy was introduced.
Ms McInnes also highlighted the fact that members of the public had told her they had been deterred from taking part due to the seven page, 16-question consultation document which asks over three sections their opinions on an array of issues.
The SPA inquiry, one of two reviews of the policy, closes on Friday (17 October). Ms McInnes has called on the SPA to encourage more people to take part by assuring those concerned that it will consider all the emails and letters it receives – not just those submitted via its lengthy form.
Earlier this month, Police Scotland announced a U-turn on the routine deployment of armed police officers following criticism from Liberal Democrats and others over the controversial policy.
In her consultation response, Ms McInnes said:
“I encouraged members of the public to respond to the SPA’s inquiry through personal contact, online and through the local press. However, a number of people consequently contacted me to say they found the seven page, 16-question document the SPA has asked them to complete to be inaccessible, needlessly complex and unnecessarily time-consuming. I know this deterred some from taking part altogether and this is disappointing.
“I am concerned this could cause the responses the SPA receives to not be an accurate reflection of public concern and opinion regarding this policy, hindering the public debate. I welcome the SPA’s intention to ensure that public engagement is meaningful but would caution that this cannot be at the expense of it being accessible, otherwise the value and validity of this engagement will be undermined and the results distorted.
“I would therefore urge the SPA, even at this late stage, to publicly provide assurances that it will accept and consider any emails and letters it receives regarding armed police as part of its scrutiny process – not simply those that have been provided in the desired format. I know this would be welcomed by my constituents and I believe this is essential if the barriers I have described are to be overcome.”
Speaking after submitting the consultation response, Ms McInnes said:
“The change in policy to allow for the routine deployment of armed police was taken with scant regard for the views of people in communities across Scotland. Police Scotland’s U-turn on the controversial policy was welcome but we should never have been in this position in the first place.
“I have already had complaints from constituents who do not have the time to sit down and write detailed answers to the 16 questions set out in the document.
“I worry that a form that reads more like an exam on police bureaucracy will only serve to limit the number of people who have their say on this important issue. I hope that the SPA will recognise this and take steps to ensure the process is accessible to everyone.”