A Safer Scotland

Speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference by George McIrvine, UNISON Branch Secretary, Tayside Police Staff Branch and Vice Chair of UNISON’s Scottish Police Committee

2 March 2012

I stood up here 18 months ago at conference in Oban and spoke about Police Chiefs looking at potential cuts to civilian staff jobs as a first option to balance their respective budgets.

18 months on it’s a reality.

1,000 jobs have disappeared across Scotland through Early Retirement / Voluntary Retirement schemes and non filling of posts.

With the real threat of another 2000-3000 posts being culled under the banner of the Police Reform. Bear in mind 65-70% of Police staff are women.

With the political Nationalist gun to their head, the only feasible way a Chief Constable can ensure ‘Policing as normal’ is to fill the 1000 job losses with the ridiculous economic conundrum of replacing civilian staff by higher paid Police Officers who are less skilled to do the job that is required.

If these 2000-3000 posts go over the next couple of years, this will ultimately lead to even more police officers off the streets of Scotland.

Evidence of this happening was only yesterday afternoon, a member came to me and said due to staff shortages in CCTV in Dundee they have pulled in a police officer and an analyst from their post to carry the job out temporarily because it was deemed more critical.

Both untrained with the analyst now not able to do his own job by viewing tapes for court production thus delaying criminal cases.

This is the knock on effect behind the scenes that our members are witnessing on a daily basis.

This is the result of the systematic cuts to our members' jobs.

Another example this week was an email to all staff in the Control Room in Dundee telling them not to listen to rumour that 2 Police officers are coming permanently but they will be coming in temporarily to cover 2 vacant posts that the Force cannot afford to fund.

I also mentioned 18 months ago, 126 Police Officers, earning approx. £35-40 k sitting side by side with our members, who are earning £25k in the Control Room in Glasgow, 18 months on it’s still a reality.

Listening to these examples, I’m sure you will agree this is just economic madness.

UNISON carried out a survey of members in February which highlights 53% stated that Police officers are covering redundant posts in full or in part.

87% state the cover provided by police officers has taken them off operational duties.

All these people cannot be wrong.

However, this is contrary to what we are hearing when senior officers who are leading this police reform are telling Parliament.

Only on Tuesday we heard the Chief Constable of CSP inform the Justice Committee that he is not aware of this particular practice happening.

Our own Chief Constable in Tayside informed the local Police Board that only 1 permanent Police officer has been used to backfill a redundant post.

She did however forget to tell the Board that 30 odd other posts have been divvied up and are being carried out by police officers.

They have now adopted the ‘smoke and mirrors’ routine to hide the truth from politicians at every level.

Conference, this is the reality of Scottish policing as we know it and the public doesn’t.

Policing in Scotland is starting to creak, Chief Constables can temporarily paper over the cracks by putting Police officers into already determined redundant posts.

It’s only a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

Too much emphasis and separatist propaganda is made on the soundbite manifesto pledge of a 1000 extra cops on the streets

The reality is 17,000 police officers and 6,000 police staff ensured crime has successfully decreased year on year in Scotland.

It’s a team game with the right people doing the right job to protect and serve the communities in which we all live.

I ask you - Who gets the majority of detections?

That will be our members Forensic scientists in chemistry, biology, DNA etc

Who gathers the evidence to pass on to these people?

That’s our members, scenes of crime officers, drivers (transport), custodiers (hold)

Who works behind the scenes in pulling together profiles of criminals, crime hotspots, inference development for tactical and strategic tasking, intelligence led policing?

That will be our members, analysts, researchers etc

That’s just a small example of the specialised, professional and support functions our members carry out.

Next time you see a report of a serious incident being televised, remember the people walking around on your TV screen are our members.

The people in uniform standing still looking straight ahead will be the police officer.

Let’s dispel the myth now that we are back office function.

We are not.

Our members are also the frontline of Policing.

UNISON are campaigning for a balanced workforce similar to the ratio of Police officer and police staff numbers they have in England & Wales but this Government is not listening, the slash and burn effect to Policing budgets in such a short space of time will have an immediate impact on policing in Scotland for years to come.

18 months on, if we do not reverse the damage that has already afflicted Police staff numbers, then we are on the road to oblivion.

I shudder to think what kind of shape ‘Safer Scotland’ will be in, in 18 months time.

Lastly, I’ve still not touched on the real dangers of local accountability and a Police state run by this separatist Government, but I’ll keep that for the next time I’m up here…..that’s if I still have a job.


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