Residents in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond will have less trust in local policing as a result of creeping centralisation in police services.
This is the warning from Police Scotland bosses in an internal briefing obtained by local MSP Jackie Baillie following a Freedom of Information request.
The secret risk register compiled by officials planning to merge our local police division with Renfrewshire & Inverclyde reveals that concerns over the controversial proposals could result in “a lack of community trust and buy-in.”
The document, which is marked as restricted, reveals some of the internal discussions about the plans which would result in the closure of Dumbarton Police HQ. Among the risks identified by police chiefs are: (1)
- “There is a danger of creating a perception of diminution of service by removing a Divisional Headquarters and Divisional Command team from an area.”
- “Some partners may consider that influence and accessibility at strategic level has been reduced or eroded, including a perception that they no longer have the same level of access to their Divisional Commander.”
- “There could be a perception of centralisation at the expense of local focus in communities, resulting in a lack of community trust and buy-in.”
- “Rationalisation of estate could further create the impression of the removal of service from an area.”
It is also revealed that West Dunbartonshire, which has the highest crime rate outside of Scotland’s cities, is one of the only areas in Scotland being considered for centralisation. This is despite police chiefs believing that opportunities exist elsewhere. (2)
Police Scotland refused to publish 8 of the 12 documents relating to the merger, claiming that it was not in the public interest to do so. Information about when the decision would be made and the total cost of the project was also withheld. (3)
Jackie Baillie MSP said:
“No matter how they try to spin the proposals, it’s clear that even Police Scotland know that people in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond do not want to see more services removed from our community.
“This merger would create one of the largest local policing areas in Scotland, stretching from the outskirts of Glasgow to the island of Tiree. There is no way that such a profound change could improve local policing.
“It is also concerning that our local division is one of only two areas in Scotland marked for centralisation. West Dunbartonshire has the highest crime rate outside of Scotland’s cities. We need a dedicated local police force rooted in the community but instead Police Scotland wants to use us as a guinea-pig for their cost-saving plans.”
Gemma Doyle MP said:
“The relationship between policing and our local communities should be built on trust yet Police Scotland is refusing to tell us how much this project is costing or even the timescales for the decision. They should immediately publish the rest of the documents they don’t want the public to see.
“From the very beginning, I have been disappointed by their lack of willingness to engage with the public about these proposals. They only decided to speak to community councils after we wrote to the Scottish Government, but even this does not go far enough.
“Since Police Scotland has refused to complete a full public consultation, we will be writing to households in Dumbarton to make them aware of the plans. It’s important that people in Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven can have their say about the future of local policing