Kennedy slams blue light centralisation

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Charles Kennedy has raised concerns about area restructuring by the emergency services, commenting that it “smacks of still more SNP centralisation and control”.

Speaking in the light of the recent Audit Scotland report on the restructuring of Scotland’s police force – which questioned the financial strategy of the reforms – Mr Kennedy said: “It is revealing indeed that the AS report has lifted the veil on the reality that the two men at the top – the chief constable and the chairman – were at loggerheads from the outset over the budgetary strategy. This confirms all our worst fears as to this imposed uniformity, one which cannot take adequate account of the need for local flexibility – not least across such a vast and diverse area as that covered by the former Northern Constabulary.

“It all smacks of still more SNP centralisation and control at our local expense.”

Mr Kennedy made the comments at Monday’s Lochaber Forum annual general meeting, where he heard updates from the police, fire and ambulance services.

“Obviously, the police and fire services have had change thrust upon them. The ambulance service is going through its own internal restructuring as well.

“What emerges is that each are considering operational territorial boundaries as they impact upon Skye and Lochalsh, Lochaber and Wester Ross — none of which are co-terminous.”

He added that the new potential territorial areas were:

  • Police (Southern Highland Command Area) – Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh and Badenoch
  • Fire – essentially the geographic area covered by the existing Ross, Skye and Lochaber Westminster parliamentary constituency
  • Ambulance – Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh and Wester Ross

Mr Kennedy said: “I would have thought that the current upheavals at least represent an opportunity to introduce some conformity among our blue light services for the benefit of the public purse and public understanding.

“I appreciate — both in terms of employees and physical assets — that the delivery of these three vital but distinct emergency services is in no way identical. But surely, given their obvious overlapping functions, something more straightforward can be established from the outset.”