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.