Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today expressed deep concern over a lack of local accountabliity in policing. He raised at First Minister's Questions the case of Elizabeth Bowe, tragically murdered in St Andrews, and the struggle of local elected representatives to scrutinise a report from the local police on what went wrong and what steps have been taken to make sure it cannot happen again.
Elizabeth Bowe was murdered in St Andrews in September 2016 and the circumstances were investigated by PIRC, who published a report.
On 7 December 2017, Liberal Democrat councillors asked for senior Police Scotland representatives to attend the North East Fife Area Committee to answer questions arising from the murder, the PIRC report and on ongoing arrangements for dealing with cases involving vulnerable individuals.
On 22 January 2018, Police Scotland refused to attend the the committee to answer questions and asked for the item to be deleted from the agenda.
This followed a previous attempt to question the handling of the incident which was blocked by an SNP councillor.
Mr Rennie said:
"The shocking murder of Elizabeth Bowe took place after her call to the police was downgraded but the community is no closer to getting a report on the terrible incident and the lessons learned.
"When councillors asked for a report on Elizabeth Bowe they were told by a senior SNP councillor to watch a recording of First Minister's Questions on the BBC iplayer. On a second attempt the police asked for the item to be removed from the agenda.
"The community of North East Fife will understandably be concerned that following such a serious case and the findings of the PIRC investigation, there is not an opportunity for local representatives to ask questions about this.
"Today I pressed the First Minister as to whether she believed that this lives up to the ambition of the Government to “strengthen the links between the police and the communities they serve". She was unable to answer. This is a clear failure of local accountability.
"It is time the First Minister recognised that the need for an independent review of the structure of the police."