John Yuill and Lamara Bell were found inside their Renault Clio by the side of the M9 motorway near Stirling, three days after it had been reported. Ms Bell was still alive but died three days later in hospital. Mr Yuill was dead when the couple were eventually found.
The tragedy has prompted fresh criticism of Scotland’s national police force, following recent rows over armed officers and stop and search, and Ms Dugdale yesterday became the first senior Scottish political figure to say that the man at the head of the force should go.
“When something goes as badly wrong as it did with the M9 crash, someone, somewhere has to be held responsible,” Ms Dugdale said yesterday.
“Sir Stephen House, the Chief Constable, should go and go now.
“But calls for the Chief Constable to stand down shouldn’t be used to mask the major problems with Police Scotland. There appears to be something seriously wrong with the police service in Scotland.”
Sir Stephen said last week that he would not be resigning over the affair and a spokeswoman for Police Scotland said last night that he had “nothing further to add” on calls for his head.
An inquiry has now been launched into police call handling by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS).
But Ms Dugdale said in a newspaper article yesterday that public confidence in Police Scotland is “draining away.”
She added: “Anybody reading about the tragedy on the M9 couldn’t help but be horrified by the details. That Lamara Bell had to suffer in her car for three days next to her dead partner, John Yuill, before the police responded to a call from a member of the public is simply shocking.”
She added: “There appears to be something seriously wrong with the police service in Scotland.
“Since the new force was set up, the SNP government has shut local stations, cut the number of backroom staff by 1,500 and tried to cover things up when people raised problems with their policy on stop and search. It’s time ministers got a grip on the situation.”
Ms Dugdale was speaking as voting opened in the ballot for the vacant Scottish Labour leadership election, which she is contesting with Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh.
The would-be leader says she has the support of the overwhelming majority of local parties, trade unions and MSPs, but Mr Macintosh is appealing directly to members to use their new voting power to “choose a new path” from those currently running the party. The new leader, to replace Jim Murphy, will be unveiled next Monday.