Inquiry into Police Scotland and SFRS five years on

Holyrood's justice committee is examining the legislation which created the services.

Emergency services: Police Scotland and SFRS under the microscope.
Emergency services: Police Scotland and SFRS under the microscope.

An inquiry has been launched into the nationalisation of Scotland’s police and fire services.

Holyrood’s justice committee is examining the legislation which brought Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service into being five years ago.

The national bodies replaced 16 regional organisations when they were created in 2013.

Justice committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “The last five years have been a period of unprecedented change in our fire and police services.

“While undoubtedly there are examples of resilience and partnership working, there have also been some problem areas identified since the mergers.

“In particular, the committee is keen to establish whether the issues faced by the services are to be expected as ‘teething problems’ or whether legislative changes are needed after five years.”

Police Scotland is currently looking for its third chief, while the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is on to its third chief and third chair.

Meanwhile, firefighter numbers have declined substantially since the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was created.

Police Scotland deputy chief constable – and interim chief constable – Iain Livingstone, said: “We need to move forward with a degree of humility, a commitment to openness and a greater willingness to engage with the people we serve so that they better understand how we police and why we take the decisions we need to take.”

SPA chairwoman Susan Deacon added: “There is much still to be done to deliver the benefits of reform and many lessons to be learned along the way, so too is there a need to work both within policing and across the wider public sector to ensure that services work more collaboratively to meet changing needs and demands.”

The committee will scrutinise the Police and Fire Reform Act to see if there are parts which could be improved, as well as looking at areas where it is working well.

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “The committee must assess how this turmoil has affected policing and public safety.

“The SNP Government must acknowledge these issues and their own mistakes to improve Police Scotland over the next five years, rather than the same old intransigence they have shown over the past five years.”

Despite criticism, national statistics published this week show crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third and 58% of respondents said police were doing a good or excellent job.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The single services have provided national specialist capabilities that would not have been possible in the past, allowing us to respond more effectively to the evolving challenges of keeping people safe in a modern Scotland.

“Ministers recognise that a change of such scale and significance as the formation of Police Scotland and the SFRS was always likely to present challenges but the independent evaluation of reform – published in February – is clear about the benefits we have seen delivered.”


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