This post is a short version of my Labour Hame blog.
People in Edinburgh that follow the news, attend their Community Council meetings or who have spoken to a police officer will not be surprised to learn that Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, has the nation’s highest crime rate – 53% above the national average.
The HMICS report comes within the context of year-on-year cuts to Police Scotland’s budget, £64million this year alone, which have resulted in the loss of around 800 police staff. The only way Sir Stephen House, the outgoing Chief Constable, could deliver the further cuts asked by the SNP Government is via what he termed “extreme measures”.
To maintain police numbers and balance the budget, Police Scotland must cut administrative posts and have police officers take on more paperwork. The impact of this has not been trivial. In Edinburgh, station closures and the abandonment of anti-burglary teams has coincided with a massive spike in house break-ins.
My nearest police station (Oxgangs) has been replaced with a weekly one hour session in a local library – this serves tens of thousands of people in Colinton, Bonaly, Oxgangs, Firrhill, Swanston, Buckstone, Fairmilehead and a substantial part of the Pentland Hills Regional Park.
Responding to public concern, both Ian Murray MP and Kezia Dugdale MSP have made repeated calls for a return to locally accountable policing in Edinburgh. Indeed, HMICS recognise that a return to local policing is the solution as they have asked Police Scotland to ensure there are “sufficient officers and community policing roles” across Edinburgh.
I am hopeful the HMICS report will put real pressure on the SNP Government to review the organisation and funding of policing in Scotland. Their aim must be to return to locally accountable policing, and to begin the work of rebuilding morale in the force and increasing public confidence.