THE CHIEF constable of Scotland has promised that the level of policing in Shetland will not be cut back when the new national police force comes into operation on 1 April.
Stephen House was speaking at the start of a two-day visit to Shetland during which he had a brief demonstration of the community-funded drug dogs, and met with councillors and local police officers.
The former Strathclyde chief constable was appointed in autumn to lead the new Scotland-wide force.
Local politicians were anxious to hear whether the local police presence would face cuts after last year’s closure of the Scalloway police station.
However the 54 year old was adamant that the number of police officers in Shetland would stay the same at 40.
“There will be no cut to the number of police officers here on the island, in fact there are a number of vacancies that we would like to fill, primarily from using local people,” he said.
“If anyone out there is thinking of joining the police, then we would be recommending they do, because we are recruiting people, both regulars and special constables.
“They can serve the community and keep people safe her in Shetland.”
The chief constable said the running of the islands’ police force would remain the responsibility of the local area commander.
“In terms of police stations we have put a lot of power into local chief inspectors’ hands.
“They know the islands, they know how the policing should be done, and really we look to them to give us recommendations.
“If he thinks there should be a change to opening hours, or a reduction in the number of police stations, then that is a matter for him to talk to the local community and the local council; we are not going to mandate from the centre.”
Scotland’s top police officer went on to claim that policing in Shetland would benefit from the larger single police force.
“Despite the very good job Northern Constabulary has done in the past, the single service in Scotland can provide a far greater specialism with far greater experience to deal with difficult situations that may occasionally affect Shetland as it affects every part of Scotland.”
Shetland Islands Council leader Gary Robinson said councillors along with members of the community planning board had held a “very positive” meeting with the chief constable.
“Mr House volunteered assurances that policing levels in Shetland would be maintained and, he added, current vacancies will be filled,” Robinson said.
“In discussions lasting 90 minutes delegates raised questions covering everything from community policing to the response to major incidents and received very satisfactory responses from the chief constable on all counts.”
Earlier on Tuesday Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has called on House to guarantee that Shetland’s police force would not be cut.
Scott said that in a recent interview the chief constable had said there may be a drop in the number of staff and station in the Grampian region as a result of the new national force being created.
“A centralised national police force is a terrible policy yet the SNP with Labour support have forced it through Parliament,” he said.