Police and Fire Reform Bill: quality before cash

I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the Scottish Parliament debate on the Police and Fire Reform Bill.

The Bill, which proposes to overhaul the current regional structure of Scotland’s police and fire services, and to amalgamate them into a single police force and a single fire service, is a substantial piece of legislation that requires long and careful scrutiny.

As with any piece of public sector reform, it must have the best interests of the people at its heart. Whilst in the current straitened times there is an understandable wish to save money through reduced duplication and increased efficiency, this wish must always be subservient to the overidding aim of improving the services themselves. Cost should not come before quality.

This was the point I was keen to stress during Wednesday’s debate, my contribution to which can be viewed here (at 1.12).

There is no point, for example, in protecting front line police only to consign them to back office duties. There is also no point in setting unrealistic timescales for staff reductions, which are unlikely to be met.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must ensure that our police and fire services remain rooted in the local communities that they exist to serve.

Council results show real progress…but we must continue to listen and learn

The recent local council results made for good reading for Labour politicians, supporters and activists.

It was great to see so much hard work rewarded, and I am pleased that Labour has decisively maintained control in battleground seats such as Glasgow and North Lanarkshire, and retained a substantial controlling presence in South Lanarkshire and Falkirk. And it would be remiss to omit the power sharing arrangement between Labour and the SNP in Edinburgh; a good example of politicians putting rivalries aside and the people first.

Whatever the SNP now claim, they will undoubtedly be disappointed with how things went. That they believed they could take Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, and a host of other councils was an open secret; but, in the event, Labour’s simple message of more jobs and better local services resounded with the electorate.

The week before the election I observed that the SNP was becoming complacent, a view perhaps shared by some voters. It is essential that, having made good progress, Labour does not fall into the same trap.

We must deliver on our election promises, and continue to listen to, and learn from, the electorate.