Scottish Labour hits out at plans to close two police call centres
Plans to shut two police call centres should be suspended as their closure would only "make matters worse", according to Scottish Labour.
Graeme Pearson, the party's justice spokesman and former senior police officer, made the call over proposals to close the Aberdeen centre and to transfer call handling functions at the Inverness site to Dundee.
His comments follow the announcement from Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House on Thursday that he will stand down earlier than planned after bringing forward his departure from 2016 to the end of this year.
The force was criticised after the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell in a road crash on the M9 in July that went undiscovered for three days after being reported.
Ms Bell, 25, lay injured for around 72 hours and later later died in hospital while her partner Mr Yuill, 28, was killed in the crash which was reported by a member of the public on the day it happened but the details were not properly logged.
Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson ordered a review of all police call handling and the case is also the subject of an independent investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc).
Mr Pearson said: "The most important job of our police service is to keep communities safe. People need to know that when they call the police they can get a quick response and that their concerns will be dealt with.
"Our police officers are doing their best under difficult circumstances, but because of SNP Government cuts too often they are having to fill backroom functions instead of being out on the streets like they were trained to do. Closing the call centres in Aberdeen and Inverness would only make matters worse.
"For the sake of communities across Scotland and already over-worked police officers, the closure of the call centres in Aberdeen and Inverness should be suspended.
"The report into call handling at Police Scotland is due to report shortly, and it will undoubtedly suggest reforms. The SNP Government should seriously consider any proposed reforms before going ahead with the plan to close call centres in Aberdeen and Inverness."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Agreement on the siting of Contact, Command and Control Centres is a matter for Police Scotland, with the oversight of the Scottish Police Authority.
"The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has directed Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland to carry out a full independent review of all call handling and processes within Police Scotland's Contact, Command and Control centres which will consider current capacity and capability, and clearly identify any issues so they can be promptly remedied."
"It is not appropriate to prejudge the results of this review, or the independent Pirc investigation. It is very important both are now allowed to conclude so that all the facts are established."
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "No dates have been set for the next stages as it must go through consultation and SPA (Scottish Police Authority) approval processes.
"We remain committed to the strategic C3 change programme which is phased and subject to consultation, engagement and approval by SPA."