This was a big week for anyone who cares about policing in Scotland.
Everyone knows that rank and file officers are doing their very best to keep us safe. But they are struggling with workload pressures and morale is low.
Yesterday saw the publication of two reports into the state of police Scotland that will lead to big changes in the way the force works. The first was the Scott review into the massive use of stop and search. This found that the use of consensual stop and search, where people are searched without suspicion of an offence being committed, was of questionable lawfulness. This tactic is to be scrapped and a new code of practice introduced.
This result is testament to the work of Alison McInnes MSP, who has led the way in challenging SNP Ministers and Police Scotland on this issue. For two years, everyone from Alex Salmond down in the Scottish Government told us there were no problems with stop and search. We knew that this was not the case. Thanks to Alison’s work, now we will get the changes that we need.
The second report was the interim finding of an investigation into police call centre closures that were thought to be a factor in the tragic crash on the M9 in Stirling. Despite the Justice Minister saying that the closure of local call centres was not a factor at the time of the crash, the report recommended that the next stage of closures be suspended immediately.
This was the right decision taken for the right reasons. The interim report found that pressure on call centre staff was still too high and that by transferring calls to other stations, the risk to public safety was increased.
Liberal Democrats opposed the creation of the single police force and warned of the damaging impact that it could have on local policing. We have suggested a series of sensible reforms that would help put local democracy back into policing.
At FMQs yesterday I pressed the First Minister on the need for a fuller, independent review into Police Scotland so lessons are learned and the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
The challenge for her now is to ensure that she follows through on her commitment to act on these reports and champion the bold approach we need to help keep our communities safe.