A war of words over police numbers has erupted between the new Scotland-wide police force’s chief officer and Shetland’s MSP.
Tavish Scott today called on Police Scotland’s chief inspector Stephen House to give an assurance the isles will not lose out when it comes to staffing levels, following a news report Grampian Police could lose out once the new service is introduced in the new financial year.
However Mr House, speaking during a visit to Shetland, insisted the MSP was talking out of turn. He said police numbers should, in fact, increase in Shetland when a recruitment drive for both regular officers and special constables gets underway.
“I’ve read the MSPs press release and frankly I don’t understand what he’s talking about. He’s putting words in my mouth. He’s saying that he can explain the reason why I’m here. He can’t because I’ve never spoken to Tavish Scott, and he’s never spoken to me.
“So he can’t explain the reason why I’m here. The reason why I’m here is to meet the cops, to meet many of our partners. It’s not to talk about a reduction in officers because there isn’t going to be a reduction in officers. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
There are around 40 police officers in Shetland. Area commander for the isles, chief inspector Angus MacInnes, said plans were afoot to repeat a recruitment roadshow for special constables within the next few weeks.
A similar exercise in December, which was aimed at encouraging new recruits to sign up, attracted 13 candidates. But plans for regular, full-time recruits have also emerged following talks with council leaders this afternoon.
“If anyone’s interested in joining the special constabulary, or if anyone is interested in joining Police Scotland, we are recruiting and we’d be happy to hear from them,” said Mr House.
In a statement Mr Scott had said: “There is only one question the chief constable must answer. Will he guarantee that Shetland will keep the same number of police officers and stations that Shetland had as part of the Northern Constabulary?
“Ministers have constantly stated that there will be no cuts to police officer numbers.
“Yet recently in an interview, Stephen House said Grampian could lose staff and stations as a result of the national police force.
“That is the opposite of the spin we got from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill when he was in Shetland.
“A centralised national police force is a terrible policy, yet the SNP with Labour support have forced it through Parliament.”
Mr House fiercely defended the decision to change to a national service from the old Northern Constabulary, and insisted services in outlying areas such as Shetland would improve as a result.
He dismissed the notion of the new force being “centralised”. Rather, he said, it was a national force and he insisted that was different.