Local police chiefs have been praised for their involvement in the community by the chairman of the community safety and resilience board.
Alastair Cooper has spoken after a Tory MSP raised concerns that Police Scotland was “wrecking” local relations and “struggles” with existing threats, let alone future ones.
Highlands and Islands member Douglas Ross reached his damning conclusions after reviewing the responses to the Scottish government’s consultation on police priorities.
Mr Cooper, who serves as SIC member for the North Mainland, says police relations in the isles have been good. He cited area commander Lindsay Tulloch and his predecessor, Angus MacInnes, who now works at Dalkeith, as senior officers who engaged well with the community.
But he admitted relations can only be as good as the commanding officers who are sent here to cover the Shetland patch.
“It’s not really an issue we have because we had Angus MacInnes and now we have Lindsay Tulloch. They have both been active in the community and work with the community,” Mr Cooper said.
“I think what’s happening is that a lot of the local authorities are finding the police service distant, and are having an issue with holding the police to account.
“We have a very good relationship here. But as I say to the police service, it’s only as good as the folk that they send up.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had people who are willing to work with the community.”
The community safety and resilience board, which met yesterday, was due to have Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Philip Gormley at its previous meeting in August. But the chief experienced weather-related flight troubles attempting to reach here, and his visit was postponed – something some board members privately described as one of the best things that could have happened, because it highlighted the isles’ isolation.
Mr Cooper, who spoke before yesterday’s meeting, said he had heard Mr Gormley was due to visit Orkney next week – although there was no word of him coming further north on this occasion.
Mr Ross said a range of organisations had registered their concerns about the state of the single force, introduced by the SNP government. He added the Scottish Police Federation listed a range of concerns, mostly linked to funding.
“These are very severe warnings that cover a range of areas where Police Scotland is struggling,” he said.
“I have always been sceptical about the national force from my days as a member on the former Grampian Police Board however I wanted it to succeed for our communities. This report shows the problems predicted at the inception of Police Scotland have been realised and show no signs of improving.
“It is losing traction on the ground and failing to keep up with the world of technology.
“This falls completely at the SNP’s door, which created the single force and has overseen its first few years.
“Ministers said local policing wouldn’t be hampered, but I hear stories across the Highlands and Islands from local people and police officers and staff that the Police Scotland model does not deliver the same level of service that we had in the past.
The Police Scotland model does not deliver the same level of service that we had in the past. – Douglas Ross MSP
“This message is replicated across the country and I hear concerns about local policing everywhere I go.
“What’s more, fears set out by the Scottish Police Federation are nothing short of alarming.
“The Scottish government has to take heed of this, and make sure the police can deal not
only with current challenges, but future ones too. Our local communities should expect no less. They value and respect the work done on the ground by our local officers but their patience is wearing thin as more and more problems emerge from the nation police force.”