‘Veil of secrecy’ over police mergers, Holyrood hears

MSP Jackie Baillie has used First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood to demand meetings over controversial police merger plans.

She said that the Scottish Government must ensure  the voices of people in Helensburgh and Lomond are heard before Police Scotland goes ahead with its plans to centralise local police services.

And the Dumbarton constituency MSP has requested meetings with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson,  and the head of Police Scotland, Sir Stephen House.

In the Scottish Parliament this week Ms Baillie asked Nicola Sturgeon to ensure that local representatives can meet with the Justice Secretary before any decision is made on proposals to merge Argyll and West Dunbartonshire’s local policing division with Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

She also raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the merger which has seen Police Scotland refuse to answer Freedom of Information requests and fail to commit to publishing the results of its consultation.

Ms Baillie told the Parliament:

The First Minister will be aware that Police Scotland wants to merge its K and L divisions to create a policing area covering more than 3,000 square miles from Tiree to Clydebank.

It was forced into consultation, it has refused to answer freedom of information requests, and it tells me that everybody agrees with it although it has no evidence to support that.

It will not even tell us when the decision will be made. Will the First Minister draw back that veil of secrecy, ensure that consultation responses are published before a decision is made and see that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice meets local representatives?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded:

I am sure that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice would be very happy to discuss that and other matters with people with an interest, including Jackie Baillie. What I would say on it is that Police Scotland was right to consult on the issue, and it should consider the responses to that consultation very carefully.

These are important decisions, they are obviously and for understandable reasons very sensitive decisions, and they should be taken with the appropriate degree of transparency.