McInnes: Police public counter closures lay bare the impact of SNP policing reforms

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes MSP today said new figures which show police public counters in Edinburgh were closed on hundreds of occasions when they should have been open to local communities lay bare the impact of the SNP’s policing reforms.

Ms McInnes was commenting as statistics obtained through Freedom of Information requests revealed that the 11 public counters in Edinburgh were shut unexpectedly 561 times over a six-month period.

This included 260 full day closures and 301 part-day closures against advertised opening hours. Leith public counter was closed or partially closed on 130 days out of 184.

If this situation were replicated at the 152 public counters across Scotland, then stations would unexpectedly be locking their doors to the public 15,000 times a year. Ms McInnes warned that this shows how stretched police staff have become.

In 2014, 63 police public counters were closed across Scotland under the SNP’s centralisation reforms. Many more station counters reduced their opening hours. The national force stated it was “to provide a consistency of service across Scotland with accessible public counters”. There are several policing processes that can only be completed with face-to-face interaction at a police station and counter uses include general enquiries, lost property, reporting crime, bail and immigration sign-ins.

Commenting on the figures, Ms McInnes said: “These figures lay bare the impact that the SNP’s policing reforms have had on access to justice in Scotland.

“Around sixty stations shut their doors to the public altogether in 2014. We were told this would improve accessibility and consistency but now we have uncovered that the remaining police public counters are regularly closed. In Edinburgh alone, they were unexpectedly shut on 561 occasions, when they should have been open to members of the local community.

“The public counter at Leith police station was closed or partially closed on 130 days out of 184. The Drylaw public counter was closed or partially closed on 96 occasions. The West End station was closed to the public for 47 full days over the same time period. These figures are shocking.

“The suspicion must be that staff have been pulled off the public counters in order to plug gaps elsewhere in the system. We know as a direct result of the SNP’s reforms officers are routinely covering roles they weren’t trained for, such as taking calls in control rooms.

“Across the capital we saw 561 unscheduled closures over a six month period. This is indicative of a national force that is overstretched and increasingly faceless. Policing works best when staff and officers are embedded in the communities they serve.

“Ahead of the election, Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out a clear plan to put democracy back into Scottish policing and ensure decisions aren’t imposed on communities again.”

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