Police Scotland ‘bungled’ over closure of stations

House admitted to MSPs that the force had received just 126 responses. Picture: Robert Perry
House admitted to MSPs that the force had received just 126 responses. Picture: Robert Perry
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JUST 69 members of the public responded to a police consultation on public counter closures, it has emerged.

MSPs accused Chief Constable Sir Stephen House’s force of a “blundered” debate with “no formal structure” as Police Scotland’s consultation on closing 65 of the country’s 214 public counters – with others to have their hours reduced – ended yesterday.

Sir Stephen will now decide whether to press ahead with the changes, which would also see a minority of public counters increase their hours.

But he admitted to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament’s sub- committee on policing that the force had received just 126 responses.

Of those, 51 were from elected members, two were from local authorities and four from community councils, with the rest coming from the public.

MSPs were incredulous that the public had been so disinterested in what has become a controversial issue in recent weeks, suggesting the approach of the force may have been to blame.

Christine Grahame MSP, sub- committee convener, said: “Is that number of responses due to the fact that it was a bit of a blundered approach? You could have been in control and done it in a more measured fashion.”

Graeme Pearson MSP, Scottish Labour justice spokesman, said: “Why was no more time taken on how the public would make their mood known, given the hasty process of consultation – 30 days is not a lot?”

Mr Pearson pointed out that an informal survey, not organised by the police, in Portobello, Edinburgh, had received more than 200 responses.

Sir Stephen defended the consultation. “I accept some members of the group feel it was not as widespread as it should have been, but you can’t open a newspaper without reading about it,” he said.

“We’ve been to the media, we’re tried to expand the coverage ourselves.”

However, he did agree to continue to listen to responses after yesterday’s deadline.

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservatives have accused First Minister Alex Salmond of using old data on police counters.

Party leader Ruth Davidson MSP said: “Alex Salmond has based his entire case for closing police stations to the public on the number of people walking through the front door.

“Yet, now we find from internal police documents that his figures are inaccurate, with some dating as far back as 2009. The police’s own consultation document admits there was ‘no data available’ for how many people were using some rural stations.”