Royal Assent for Police and Fire Reform Act

THE historic Act to merge Scotland’s police and fire and rescue services, which has prompted concern from local politicians, has been granted Royal Assent.

The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 creates a single Police Service of Scotland and a single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to serve local communities and meet the demands and challenges of the 21st century.

It reduces duplication and creates a new streamlined structure across the current eight police forces, the Scottish Police Services Authority, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the eight fire and rescue services.

By doing things differently and working more effectively and efficiently, the Scottish Government say the Act will free up resources for frontline services and is expected to save £1.7 billion over 15 years.

However, a number of politicians including Berwickshire MP MIchael Moore and local MSP John Lamont, have raised concerns about the effect centralising services will have on rural areas like the Borders.

High priority provisions of the Act allowing for the appointments of the Chief Constable, Chief Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Chairs of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and SFRS, came into effect at the end of last week.

The recruitment process is well underway for these positions, as well as membership of the SPA and SFRS and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “This historic Act creates police and fire and rescue services fit for the future while protecting the excellent record of the past for our communities in Scotland.

“The new Police Service of Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service start from a position of strength.

“Crime is now at a 37-year low, helped by the record 1,000 extra officers this Government has delivered since 2007 and fire deaths are at their lowest level for a decade.

“Reform will safeguard frontline police and fire and rescue in our communities.

“Local commanders and local senior officers for every council area throughout Scotland will work closely with the local authorities and Community Planning Partnerships, to shape local services and prioritise local needs.”