Single Police And Fire Plans Confirmed

Alex Salmond's confirmed to MSPs he is going forward with plans to scrap our regional police and fire services in place of single national ones.

Alex Salmond said, "Today I am announcing our intention to move towards single services.

Tomorrow, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will provide Parliament with further information, including how we will seek views on the options for how the new services will work in detail.''

The idea of merging the country's eight police forces into one was outlined in a government proposal in January and a consultation started in February. Other options included having fewer forces or a more streamlined version of the existing system.

Outlining the government's plans at Holyrood, Mr Salmond told MSPs that legislation to create a single police force and a single fire service, would save money without hitting frontline services.

Mr Salmond made the announcement as he launched his programme for government in the Scottish Parliament.

He said, "After detailed consideration of all the evidence available, we are persuaded that a single police service and a single fire and rescue service are the right options.

It will sustain and improve the delivery of local services while giving all parts of Scotland access to national expertise and assets whenever and wherever they are needed.

The reform will enhance national governance, ensuring clear separation from ministers, to ensure the continued operational independence of these vital services.''

The SNP was elected four months ago with a majority of seats at the Parliament, meaning it can pass new laws without having to win opposition backing.

Plans to create a single police force have attracted both support and opposition since the Government's consultation was launched.

A single service is supported by Labour and the Conservatives but opposed by the Liberal Democrats.

The party has raised concerns about the effects on accountability and performance, particularly in rural areas.

Hinting at today's formal announcement, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told delegates at an international policing summit last month that a single force would provide "greater benefits'' which other options for change do not offer.

Mr MacAskill said he was "convinced'' the case for creating a single force had been strengthened following consultation over the summer.

Commenting on Mr Salmond's announcement, the chairman of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), Les Gray, said, "The Scottish Government has decided to proceed with plans to amalgamate all eight Scottish police forces after consulting widely.

Now that the future shape of policing in Scotland has been decided, the federation will work with the government, the parliament and other interested parties to ensure the new system works for the people of Scotland and the police.''

He added, "The SPF will work tirelessly to make sure that concerns raised by the public and the police are properly dealt with.

We will ensure that local accountability remains and that the operational independence of the single police force is protected.''