The imposition of a single police force on Scotland by the Nationalist government could cost Shetland officers, according to MSP Tavish Scott.
He was speaking after the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday. Under the act the new chief constable of the single national police service must designate a constable as a local commander for each local authority area, who must involve local authorities in setting priorities and objectives for the carrying out of police functions.
The local commander is also required to submit a local police plan to the authority for its approval, a power not previously held by councils. Additionally, local authorities will now be able to monitor and provide feedback to their local commander on its functions.
Mr Scott said: “The Nationalists used their parliamentary majority to force through a national police force. Unfortunately this change reduces local accountability, stops local SIC councillors having any real say over budgets and puts at risk the operational independence of the police. A national force will have little time for the isles and I fear we will lose local officers down to the Scottish mainland.”
Mr Scott said sensible and constructive proposals were made by all parties on Wednesday to improve the bill. Yet the Nationalists voted them down in pursuing a “centralising dogma” which takes power and responsibility away from local people and local councillors.
He added: “Most worrying of all this law allows Nationalist ministers to approve the appointment of a Scottish chief constable by a board who will be hand-picked by the minister. This mixes politics and policing and is just wrong.
“The new chief constable will be the servant of his political master – a Nationalist minister. I have no doubt that a future non-Nationalist government in Scotland will have to review this bad and dangerous law.”
SNP Highlands and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart, meanwhile, hailed the passage of the act as a “fantastic opportunity” for local communities to have a stronger say over their local services.
In a letter to The Shetland Times Ms Urqhuart said she was proud to vote for the establishment of a new service that returned powers to local communities and helped to preserve record high numbers of police officers, placing resources where they were most needed.
She said: “Contrary to the claims of other parties, this new service does not move power away from communities. Instead, it places them in a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with their local commander, strengthening the ties between the service and the community it serves.
“The fact that Shetland Islands Council, for example, must now have its approval sought on the delivery of services on Shetland is surely an improvement on the current arrangements.
“I call upon people of all parties and none to help realise the potential of this new service by working with local communities to increase co-operation across all levels of government.”