The creation of national police and fire services in Scotland has left frontline officers stretched and dealing with “diminishing resources” a new report has found.
Efforts to forge links with local communities among the police is being hampered with firefighters facing red tape hold-ups in getting access to key support and equipment, a Scottish Government report has found.
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Opponents say Police Scotland is one of the worst funded forces in the UK which has left officers “demoralised.”
But Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf insisted the public is “well served” by both forces and Scotland is not alone in the challenges it has faced dealing with reform of its emergency services.
Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and rescue service were formed in 2014, with the amalgamation of the old regional forces. But the final evaluation of the reforms published yesterday warns of ongoing challenges.
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“The redeployment of officers to specialist teams, reductions in civilian staff and restructuring of resource provision and geographical responsibilities have resulted in concerns among local officers, shared by the public and local councillors, that resources are increasingly stretched relative to demand,” the report finds.
“This evaluation found there was also a strong perception among those involved in the routine delivery of local services that they were operating with diminishing resources, and that work to strengthen connections with communities was often hampered by other organisational pressures.”
The report warns of “poor internal communication” and a lack of openness and honesty in talking about the challenges of reform.
Firefighting staff also found they were “stretched” as a result of falling administrative staff. The centralised structures also meant there was increasing bureaucracy involved with accessing support and equipment.
Mr Yousaf said Scots are well-served by the emergency services, but described the reforms as the “most significant” in the public since devolution.
“Scotland has not been unique in facing challenges in police and fire reform,” he said.
“Other nations have faced issues, some similar to Scotland, some not.”