New information obtained by local MSP Jackie Baillie shows that Police Scotland have been planning to move our local policing headquarters from Dumbarton to Paisley all along.
Over 1,700 local people have signed a petition against plans announced in December last year to merge the local policing divisions covering West Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.
Internal briefings show that the original proposal was to locate the headquarters in Paisley due to its ‘ease of motorway access’. This is despite repeated assurances from senior police chiefs that the force had not yet decided whether to use Dumbarton or Paisley as its base. The former Chief Superintendent of Argyll and West Dunbartonshire told local people in January that “no firm decisions have been made as yet, including the location of a future headquarters”.
The information has come to light after Jackie Baillie lodged an appeal when Police Scotland published heavily-redacted documents in response to her Freedom of Information request. Police Scotland eventually released the documents in full after a five-month battle with the Scottish Information Commissioner who agreed with Jackie Baillie that the information should be made public.
The documents also reveal that Police Scotland originally wanted to make £288,000 in revenue savings by closing the Police HQ at Garshake. The real figure could have been much higher when the land was sold off to housing developers. However the plans were finally shelved following a public outcry which forced police chiefs to back down and guarantee that the police station will remain in Dumbarton.
“This proves once and for all that local people were right to be concerned about Police Scotland’s plans to move our local policing headquarters south of the river to Paisley. The fact that senior police chiefs were saying one thing in public and another in private will only undermine the hard work that local officers do to build trust with our local communities.”
Jackie Baillie also quizzed the SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson this month on when the final merger plans would be announced but did not receive a clear answer.
The merger was expected to be concluded by 1 April this year but Police Scotland has been silent in recent months and has yet to announce a final outcome.
Calling on Police Scotland to end its silence on its merger proposals, Jackie added:
“Police Scotland wanted the merger to be done and dusted by 1 April this year and clearly did not expect the high level of public concern about the impact on services. The final decision is now five months overdue and we desperately need clarity on what the future holds for local policing, particularly for the officers on the street who serve our communities so well.”