THE Scottish Government was today accused of treating Aberdeen as Scotland’s “forgotten city” ahead of tomorrow’s expected decisions to close both the fire and police service control rooms in Europe’s oil capital.
The boards of both the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish and Fire and Rescue Service will meet tomorrow when members are expected to rubber stamp controversial proposals to dramatically reduce the number of control centres across the country.
Police Scotland wants to close six control rooms with the loss of up to 212 jobs. The control rooms in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Glenrothes, Glasgow Pitt Street and Stirling are facing the axe.
Fears about the impact of the closures on communities across the North east of Scotland were voiced by opposition MSPs today as Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, visited the new national force’s Aberdeen divisional headquarters ahead of tomorrow’s separate fire and police board meetings.
Richard Baker, the North East Labour MSP, claimed: “SNP cuts to the budgets of our emergency services are forcing the review of assets and Aberdeen seems to be the target of these cuts. The SNP Government will try their very best to deny any of the responsibility for this move but we must be clear, they are ultimately responsible for our emergency services.”
He continued: “The Cabinet Secretary may dodge our questions in Parliament but he must provide answers for the police staff who face uncertainty over the future of their jobs. It is clear that Aberdeen is the SNP’s forgotten city and it is time Kenny MacAskill explains his position on the cuts being inflicted on Aberdeen which are now being directed towards our emergency services.”
Control room closure will cost ‘hundreds of jobs’
Lewis Macdonald, another North East Labour MSP, called on the members at the Scottish Police Authority board to consult the public before making a final decision.
He said: “Closing the police control room at Queen Street and the service centre at Bucksburn will cost hundreds of jobs, and have a serious impact on service to the public.
“With proposals that all police operations north of the Central Belt should be directed from Dundee, communities in the North and North east will be rightly concerned about future levels of service.”
Mr Macdonald continued: “Police Scotland have recently held public consultations on proposed closures of police station counters and the future of traffic wardens. Closing control rooms will have an even greater impact on our communities yet it appears there are currently no plans for a full public consultation.
“Before making such drastic cuts, the SPA must at least allow the public to have their say.”
‘Out of touch’
Nanette Milne, the Conservative MSP for the North east, also condemned the closure proposals. She said: “Kenny MacAskill’s hastily arranged visit to Aberdeen Division Headquarters just demonstrates how out of touch he has become with events affecting the North east.
“Kenny MacAskill has tried to pass the buck on the Aberdeen Police call centre closures, blaming everyone from Police Scotland themselves to Westminster even when this decision is 100 per cent made in Scotland. It’s time Kenny MacAskill took responsibility for the Aberdeen Police call centre closures and started to directly address the many questions and growing concerns.”
She claimed: “It is clear that increasingly SNP MSPs are showing they have little confidence in Kenny MacAskill and the process which has been used to reach the decision to close Aberdeen Police call centres. It is time the SNP took impact that their centralisation agenda is having on servicers across the North East.”
But Mr MacAskill defended the closure proposals.
He said: “We have got to get the best possible technology for the 21st Century to make sure that every area in Scotland is safe and secure.
“We require as a Government - our people expect no less - that they should have the best possible equipment to ensure their and their communities’ safety and also to ensure the safety of those who require to serve, often in dangerous incidents where their own lives can be at risk.
“We need to be able to respond with the nearest and most appropriate police or fire response. That currently cannot be provided because of the historic legacy of equipment that doesn’t interact or is capable of being coordinated.”
Mr MacAskill continued: “Technology moves on and that is why the police and fire and rescue service have taken the view that changes need to come about. These decisions are operational and, quite correctly, we have taken the view there should not be political interference in operational matters.
“But I have always taken the view that, when operational decisions are taken - when they are clealy appropriate - then I should be supportive of that.”