We need the facts on the M9 tragedy

A heartbroken father singing to revive his injured daughter as she lay in a hospital bed is an image that will flash into my mind whenever I think of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.  

We owe it to Lamara, John, their families and friends to get to the facts behind their tragic deaths.

We also owe it to all the police officers and staff who were involved.  Our duty of care extends to them. Scapegoating individuals to protect others, the reform programme or even the whole organisation is something that should never be tolerated. 

From the wave of messages from police, staff and members of the public across the country it is clear that there are real problems in Police Scotland.  The workload is high, systems are creaking, public confidence is low and so is staff morale. The target culture and management style is part of the issue. Funding is a factor and so is the "the only way is Strathclyde" mentality. 

The control rooms are short of trained staff after many left when local control rooms in Dumfries, Stirling and Glenrothes closed. Experienced police officers are working overtime in the rooms even though they may not have the appropriate training to do the job. Sickness rates are high because of the pressure.

With all this evidence I have argued that we need a wider inquiry into the operation of Police Scotland. I am pleased that Michael Matheson has ordered an inquiry into the call handling system but disappointed that he seems to have already concluded that there are no wider problems. It is absolutely right that there is an inquiry into the tragic deaths of John and Lamara. But the PIRC and the HMICS inquiries are not enough. A wider, independent inquiry is what we need to plot the way out of the crisis enveloping Police Scotland.

In the meantime the closure of the remaining control rooms should be suspended at least until those inquiries are complete.

When we campaigned against the centralisation of the police we were derided.  When we warned about high rates of stop and search and armed police we were ignored.  When we asked for action on the control rooms crisis we were dismissed.  And only a few weeks ago the Chief Constable accused me of scaremongering.

Instead of accusing others of misdeeds perhaps the Chief Constable, and Justice Secretary, should listen more. They don't even have to listen to me but they should listen to the voices from the frontline.  That is why police officers and staff must have the freedom to speak to the inspector to tell the real story of Police Scotland as it stands today.

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