SCOTTISH Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has given his backing to police and fire authorities as they prepare to axe control rooms up and down the country.
Mr MacAskill was visiting Dumfries Police HQ only three days after it was announced that the control centre employing 34 people is likely to be axed.
Police control centres at Glasgow, Glenrothes, Aberdeen and Stirling are also set to go with staff being offered re-deployment or voluntary severance.
The Dumfries Fire control room in Dumfries is also set to go along with others up and down the country.
Mr MacAskill said he had every sympathy with people affected by the changes and said: “But they are necessary to ensure we get the best possible police service, that we meet the financial challenges which are significant and we meet that commitment to keep policing local and to provide the access to specialist resources that are necessary in the much more complicated world that we have.”
He said they had to make sure that every community in Scotland was as safe as it could be and that they can get the best possible service
from the police and fire and rescue service.
“The equipment must be modernised and fit for purpose for the 21st Century.
“That will be provided in the changes proposed by the Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. There will be no compulsory
redundancies and that has always been a commitment of this government.
“What the people in Dumfries and Galloway will get is the best possible equipment. That is why the boards are likely to approve the
suggestions by the Chief Fire and Police Officers.”
Several control room staff waved banners at Mr MacAskill as he was driven in and out of the Dumfries HQ where he was on a fact-finding visit to see how V Division Dumfries and Galloway is benefiting from being part of the single service police force.
Lynn Green, control room worker at Dumfries said staff were in tears when news of the closure of the Dumfries centre was announced on Friday.
She said: “We were drip-fed bits of information and then we were given the shock news that nothing was going to be left here in Dumfries and it was closing in 10 weeks.
“They are creating 50 new jobs in Inverness where the SNP is active and they are obviously protecting their votes for the referendum.
People were in tears here when the news was given and even some of the police officers who had suspected something was going to happen, were gob-smacked by the speed of it.”
She added: “Local knowledge is invaluable in an emergency when people are trying to describe where they are. Talking to someone in the likes
of Greenock is only going to delay response times.”
Fellow control room worker Derek Howson said: “I think they expect everyone to take redundancy just to get rid of us. I’m probably the
only one that could re-locate but it’s the short notice.
“The alternative is to go into a pool for jobs and there’s only been one here and that was a cleaner. I love my job.”
Mr MacAskill said it was up to the Police and Fire authorities to make the decisions and the local councils could put forward their points of view.
“We are building on the outstanding services we had here for police and fire and the legacy of the Dumfries and Galloway forces and Police
Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are providing the best of both worlds.
“They are maintaining that visible local presence in our communities in terms of the bobby on the beat in particular and also ensuring the access to specialist services which are necessary in the 21st Century are available in every community in Scotland and here in Dumfries and Galloway.”
”There will be no compulsory redundancies, the job may change but the individual will be looked after.”
Mr MacAskill said they had maintained the commitment to increase the police force by 1000 and this had been maintained and was currently
above the 17,234 figure. “That is how it will be maintained during our term of office and we believe the increased police presence has led to
a nine year low in recorded crime, the lowest homicide rate since stats were recorded and significant drops in crime such as violence and offensive weapons which scar communities, rural and urban.”