THE NEWLY appointed commander of the highlands and islands area within the new Police Scotland force has claimed that local scrutiny of policing would improve under the new set-up that comes into force on 1 April.
Chief superintendent Julian Innes was in Shetland on Monday to attend a meeting of the newly formed Community Safety Board.
Community safety boards are in the process of being set up in all local authority areas and will have the role of scrutinising the work of local police and fire services.
Innes said islanders should notice very little change when the new police force becomes a reality in two weeks time.
And he confirmed that the number of police officers stationed in the isles would stay the same, adding that an additional half post had been created to bring the number of civil staff in Shetland to four and a half.
He acknowledged some initial “bedding in” problems with the force’s new telephone service that sees all calls redirected to the Inverness switchboard.
Usage of the new 101 number to contact the nearest police station 24/7 is still very low accounting currently to just nine per cent of all calls made to the police in the highlands and islands.
Of the 984 calls on the 101 number received by Northern Constabulary during the four weeks from 21 February to 17 March only 36 came from Shetland.
But the chief superintendent said he was confident that uptake would grow significantly over coming months, adding that the service would become as familiar and well used as the 999 number.
He said: “The public should see no change to the police service in Shetland when Police Scotland comes along. If they see a change then it should be one of improvement.
“Part of the local scrutiny committee will be to challenge area commander Angus MacInness and scrutinise local police work.
“It is not just the police that is being scrutinised but the fire service as well. I think that is a positive step forward in local accountability and it should give us another avenue for local concerns to be raised. I see this as an entirely positive thing.”