There is something nightmarish about the story of the car that crashed off the M9 and lay in a field for 3 days with its occupants trapped inside. My thoughts are very much with the family of the driver who died and I am sure we all hope the passenger makes a full recovery.
What makes the story particularly worrying is the fact that the police were made aware of the incident and failed to act. Although the M9 incident is far more serious, it is similar to the reports that police no longer investigate many break-ins as it is “not a good use of time”.
This comes within the context of year-on-year cuts to Police Scotland’s budget. The only way Sir Stephen House, Chief Constable, can deliver the cuts asked by the SNP Government is via what he terms “extreme measures”.
To maintain the police numbers and balance the budget he must cut administrative posts and have Police Officers take on more paperwork. In Edinburgh, station closures and the abandonment of anti-burglary teams has coincided with a massive spike in house break-ins.
The Police Scotland budget cuts have been exacerbated by the way in which the force was reorganised. Despite warnings from Unison and Scottish Labour, the SNP Government proceeded to implement an accounting structure which resulted in Police Scotland being billed for an additional £23m in VAT.
This reorganisation of policing has also resulted in many tried and tested local policing initiatives being replaced top-down by approaches used in Glasgow. The result has been controversy over armed policing, real concern about the abuse of stop and search powers and a collapse in police morale. Just last week, the SNP Government was referred to the UN by the Scottish Human Rights Commission over the use of stop and search powers.
No doubt the SNP Government will assert that these are “operational matters” which Police Scotland should address, but it is clearly time for them to look again at how policing is funded and organised in Scotland.