May the force be with you ...

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POLICE and fire and rescue services are facing a shake-up in the coming years after the SNP Government announced plans to create a single police force and a single fire and rescue service for Scotland.

Alex Salmond, First Minister, announced legislation to create the nationwide forces were among the new bills to be introduced at Holyrood last Wednesday ending rumour and speculation.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, and launching an eight week consultation, Kenny MacAskill, Justice Secretary, said the move will safeguard the vital frontline services communities depend on.

The changes are expected to deliver estimated savings of £130m a year and £1.7bn over 15 years.

Mr MacAskill said: “All of our communities are rightly proud of the professionalism and dedication of our police and fire and rescue services, they are a credit to Scotland.

Crime falls

“Crime is now at a 35-year low and detection rates are improving, helped by 1000 extra officers on the streets.

“Fire deaths are now 50 per cent lower than a decade ago.

“However the future of these excellent services is under threat from the spectre of huge financial cuts from Westminster - and the Scottish Government will not let this happen.

“But we have the opportunity to make a virtue of necessity.

“By reforming, we can make sure money is spent on the frontline and not on unnecessary duplication across eight services.

“Reform allows us to create first class police and fire services to serve communities for years to come.”

Benefits

Other benefits of the service reform include a reduction in duplication and overheads across eight police and eight fire and rescue services, freeing up resources for frontline policing and fire services.

It will also give all communities access to national and specialist services and expertise such as murder investigation teams, firearms teams and fire investigations, as and when they are needed.

Single forces would also improve Scotland’s capacity to tackle national threats such as terrorism and serious organised crime, and respond to incidents such as severe winter weather.