Labour will launch review into Police Scotland

A MAJOR review into Police Scotland is to be launched by Scottish Labour in the wake of Chief Constable Sir Stephen House’s decision to step down following a probe into the M9 road accident victims who were left to die for three days.

Sir Stephen House has been dogged by controversy, including the M9 deaths. Picture: PA
Sir Stephen House has been dogged by controversy, including the M9 deaths. Picture: PA
Sir Stephen House has been dogged by controversy, including the M9 deaths. Picture: PA

Former top police officer Graeme Pearson, now the party’s spokesman on justice in Holyrood, will today announce the review which will look into local accountability, staff problems, targets and the relationship between senior officers and SNP Scottish Government ministers.

It follows a defence of Sir Stephen by SNP justice minister Michael Matheson who said the outgoing chief constable had made “a huge contribution.”

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Opponents claimed the justice secretary is “in denial” over the problems with the force which has seen question marks over the use of stop and search north of the Border.

There are also claims that a huge dossier of other police call centre mistakes are set to rock Police Scotland along with the M9 scandal in July when John Yuill, 28, and Lamara Bell, 25, were left in a car for three days when a call reporting the accident was not passed on.

The brother of Ms Bell has appealed for police whistleblowers to come forward.

Martin Bell said: “If 999 calls are being unattended it is serious and it’s only a matter of time before there is another fatality.”

The Scottish Lib Dems have also announced they are set to make proposals at the UK party conference next month to make policing accountable to Scotland’s 32 councils.

Mr Pearson has been tasked by new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to assess the effectiveness of the single police force and propose bold reforms to restore local accountability and “reverse the impact of SNP government cuts to staff and services”.

The Pearson Review will report back to Ms Dugdale by the end of the year, and the proposals for reform will be included in the manifesto for 2016.

Mr Pearson said: “Scotland’s police officers are doing their best under very difficult circumstances.

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“Instead of doing the job they trained for, too many are having to fill back office functions because of SNP Government cuts to civilian staff.

“The failure over the M9 crash was the straw that broke the camel’s back and exposed the many problems at the heart of Police Scotland today.

“We supported the introduction of the single police force back in 2013, but something has gone badly wrong with its implementation. The resignation of Sir Stephen House was the right thing to do but the problems won’t follow him out the exit door.”

He added: “Policing in Scotland needs a shake-up. We need to get back to the kind of community policing that made Scotland the envy of the world at one time.

“Labour will be bold and radical in our approach to policing in Scotland.”

Discussing his party’s proposals, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie repeated his attack on the centralisation of policing in Scotland by the SNP which was backed by Labour, and demanded local accountability.

Mr Rennie said: “Our proposals to put democracy back into Scottish policing are radical and substantial. They would ensure that the democratic architecture of the single force gives local communities a voice.”

He added: “We need to return to police by consent where communities feel ownership of the police service in their area whilst pooling resources for specialist units and services.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Although there have been challenges, policing in Scotland continues to perform effectively, supported by the 1000 extra officers we have delivered – while, in contrast police have been cut by 16,000 south of the border.”