By Bill Heaney
A police office is one of the public services local people say they would like to see introduced into Dumbarton Town Centre as part of the £20 million “levelling up” project funded by the UK government.
Many of them feel this should take precedence over council-favoured projects such as turning Glencairn House in the High Street into a museum and library.
A push towards making the police more visible in communities such as Dumbarton, where the police office is currently east of the town on the A82 at Crosslet, where the exit is dangerous for police vehicles moving at speed, is underway in Edinburgh.
Now Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has called for the Scottish Government to explain how it will maintain community accountability and access as he revealed that the number of police counters has fallen by a quarter since a single national force was created a decade ago.
Police Scotland came into existence on 1 April 2013. Its creation was backed by SNP, Labour and Conservative politicians but opposed by Scottish Liberal Democrats who warned that the centralisation would undermine community links and fail to deliver estimated cost savings.
A freedom of information from Scottish Liberal Democrats has now revealed that on the tenth anniversary of Police Scotland, the number of police counters has fallen from 340 counters in 2013 to 253 counters in 2023.
A question is expected in Parliament this week on the number of police stations which have closed down in the North East division since Police Scotland’s inception in 2013.
Liam McArthur said: “When Police Scotland was introduced by SNP ministers, the public were told it would deliver significant cost savings which could be invested elsewhere in the service. Instead it has seen police counters closing across Scotland.
“The police are most effective when they are embedded in the communities they serve. Not only that but it is a source of comfort to people to know that they can go into a police station and speak to an officer face to face.
“There will always be a need for the police estate to match up with the demands of the service but I know officers who are as frustrated as the public are that they now operate from central stations further away from the communities they serve, especially in remote and rural areas.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to press for a police service that serves the needs of every corner of our country and keeps the link between officers and their communities at the heart of Scottish policing.
“The Scottish Government must not make the same mistakes with their proposed takeover of social care services. Local accountability is valuable and bureaucratic reform programmes have a tendency to spiral out of control.”
The Democrat heard from a businessman in Helensburgh this week how two men fighting in the street had fallen through the door into his shop.
And how he had called for the police to come but they had not turned up. Not at all.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it when I found out later that there was only one policeman on duty in Helensburgh at the time, for the whole of Helensburgh.
“The few others who were working attached to the police station had been called out to an emergency in Balloch.
“It’s high time we had more officers on the beat down here. We were told when the single national force was created ten years ago that policing would improve, but everyone can see it has got worse.”