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Police and fire reform
Improving the 'already excellent' police and fire services for all of Scotland's communities is at the heart of options for reform outlined in two separate consultations launched yesterday by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Speaking as people across the country were invited to join the debate on reforming the two services, Mr MacAskill reiterated that maintaining the current excellent standards of policing and fire and rescue work could not be done by sticking to the status quo.
He said the consultations and subsequent reforms offer a chance for improved local accountability and services and an opportunity to spread policing and fire expertise around the country, while strengthening national resilience to threats such as terrorism.
Mr MacAskill said:
"Scotland is extremely fortunate to be served by highly dedicated, professional police forces and fire and rescue crews. Both services have contributed significantly to making this country a safer place to live, with recorded crime at a 32-year low, and a long-term decline in fire deaths.
"These successes have been helped by our delivery of an additional 1,000 police officers, and our continued levels of support for those fire-fighters that risk their lives on a daily basis to keep us safe.
"We want to maintain these considerable achievements, and ensure people in Scotland continue to benefit from the police and fire services upon which they are entitled to rely. However, there is a growing consensus that the financial challenges we face due to the unprecedented cut in Scotland's budget will not allow us to do that without changing the way these services are structured.
"We realise that some of the options have raised concerns about local accountability surrounding larger regional or national structures. As such, we are launching these consultations today so that the case for and against particular options can be made and we can build a consensus on the future of these vital public services.
"We believe this process offers police and fire professionals, other partners and communities an excellent opportunity to shape these services; to spread expertise and management functions around the country, and to address threats such as terrorism and severe weather.
"Whatever reform emerges from this consultation process, it will have at its heart, the improvement of services for the people of Scotland."
The consultations will run for 12 weeks and close on May 5, 2011.
A programme of consultation engagement events will be confirmed shortly, with the Justice Secretary and Minister for Community Safety touring the country, speaking to local communities, frontline staff and key stakeholders.
The consultation will run in parallel to work being carried out by the Scottish Policing Board and Ministerial Advisory Group on fire services that will examine the details of each option for reform.