Concerns aired over ‘central belt’ influence on emergency services
Shetland’s needs are being pushed out to the boundaries following the centralisation of emergency services.
That was the warning at last night’s meeting of Lerwick Community Council.
SIC convener Malcolm Bell, who is a former area commander for the old Northern Constabulary, warned against a “central belt” influence being felt in the 999 services.
He cited Police Scotland initiatives against crimes such as “gang warfare” as examples of programmes which had no bearing on policing in the isles. However, he insisted he had no criticism against local management or leadership.
Mr Bell’s comments came as members discussed an invitation by the nationwide fire service to provide feedback on its new rescue plan for the isles over the next three years.
It follows a decision last week to close the Inverness fire control room, giving rise to concerns local knowledge may be lost.
The consultation was branded “irrelevant” for Shetland by members, while the draft document was dismissed as itself a consequence of centralisation.
“This is an inevitable consequence of what happens when organisations are centralised. We’re seeing it very clearly within the police and fire services” said Mr Bell.
“More and more we’re seeing a central belt influence coming in. There is a police initiative, for example, against gang warfare that has no relevance to Shetland.
“It is not a criticism at all of our local management or leadership.”
He had been echoing points made by fellow SIC councillor Michael Stout, who said the local fire and rescue plan failed to reflect any of the issues facing Shetland, such as the closure of Inverness control.
“This is a good example of a document that has nothing wrong with it, as it stands, but issues like the closing down of the fire control room in Inverness – which is of far more potential relevance to us – are not reflected at all,” said Mr Stout.
“What difference does it make? I question the relevance of us making any comment at all.”
Community councillor Eddie Knight was equally unconvinced that the fire service would take heed of any feedback.
“They listen to it, and then they do what they want,” he insisted.
The draft local plan is described as a “significant milestone” in the development of fire and rescue service delivery by local senior officer for Shetland, Billy Wilson.
In a letter to community councillors he urged them to provide feedback to the plan.
“Your views are important to the service and I would encourage you to provide feedback.”
He also stated he would be in Shetland during this month, and said he would be happy to meet community councillors to discuss the plan.
Consultation on the document closes on 14th February.