MSP Gil hits back in national cops row

A COUNCILLOR has been accused of “scaremongering” after he claimed that policing in Milngavie and Bearsden will be seriously affected if plans to create a single Scottish police force go through.

LibDem Ashay Ghai told the M&B Herald last week that if the Scottish Government’s proposals to abolish the country’s eight regional services and replace them with a single national one go through, there will be “serious ramifications” locally as well as diminished accountability.

However, Milngavie SNP MSP Gil Paterson hit back, claiming that Councillor Ghai is “electioneering” and that he has “completely misunderstood” the Nationalist administration’s position.

Mr Paterson said: “This blatant scaremongering on the part of Councillor Ashay Ghai is completely out of order. He simply doesn’t understand the proposal and is making seriously inaccurate assertions.

“The reason the Scottish Government want to do this is to mitigate the cuts that are coming from his Liberal coalition in London and save frontline services. His claim that there will be no local accountability could not be further from the truth.

“In fact, under this proposal there will be far more local accountability. At present only one in eight councillors can sit on the Strathclyde Police Board. With the single force, every single councillor can sit on their local police board and each local authority will have a Local Commander who is responsible to the council.

“Coupled with the fact that the LibDems voted in Parliament against a further 1000 police officers, and are planning a 25 per cent reduction in police numbers in England, I find this attitude astonishing.

“The Scottish Government is doing everything it can to keep police on the ground and the lowest reported crime figures in Scotland for 34 years proves how important this is.”

East Dunbartonshire Council’s SNP Group Leader Ian Mackay also criticised Councillor Ghai’s comments and said their opposition had left the council without a voice on the Scottish Government consultation after Councillor Ghai successfully argued at a recent meeting of the policy and resources committee that EDC shouldn’t back the single force plan.

Councillor Mackay said: “I suspect that Councillor Ghai hasn’t read the proposal, or if he has, he certainly doesn’t understand it. Because of the LibDems refusal, or inability to understand it, the council has lost the opportunity to take part in the Scottish Government consultation on the issue.

“They forced the proposal to be discussed at the next full council meeting which takes place after the cut off date for the consultation. However, the SNP group will respond unilaterally.

“It’s time for Councillor Ghai to stop peddling misinformation during his blatant electioneering and get his facts right.”

Evidence

However, Councillor Ghai, who represents Bearsden South, said: “Despite much talk the Scottish Government has been unable to provide any evidence whatsoever on how these ill-thought-out plans for a single national police force will cut any costs.

“Indeed the rebranding alone of eight forces into one will cost tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. This has more to do with the Scottish Government’s power centralising agenda for Edinburgh than anything to do with cost cutting.

“Replacing a Police Authority that has two East Dunbartonshire representatives with a single Board of 11 ministerial appointees for the whole of Scotland is a worrying precedence for local decision making. For Mr Paterson to argue that this change could assist local accountability is plainly ridiculous. Bearing in mind the influence that policing matters have on our local community, people have every right to be concerned.”

The EDC LibDem group leader added: “The decision made at the council’s policy and resources committee - supported by all groups apart from the SNP - was for the consultation to be answered but with a covering letter to underline our opposition to a single national police force.

“Following this I can confirm that a request was made to the Scottish Government to extend our deadline allowing us to feed in constructively after the next full council meeting. Perhaps Councillor Mackay should also check his facts before making baseless accusations that the council has been left without a voice.”