JUSTICE Secretary Kenny MacAskill paid tribute to the Borders police officers – but admitted he has not yet decided whether to get rid of the Lothian and Borders Force.
Mr MacAskill made the comments on a visit to Galashiels and Selkirk yesterday to discuss local policing and meet offenders carrying out community payback orders.
The future of the police in Scotland is currently uncertain, following a three-month consultation which could lead to the creation of a single force for the whole country.
Mr MacAskill said: “Policing in the Borders is of the highest quality, and the whole area is rightly proud of the work each officer does keeping their community safe, whether they be in a rural setting or in one of the region’s bigger towns. “Our police reform programme is all about ensuring that this excellent community policing is sustained and improved in the face of budget cuts from Westminster, allowing senior officers in the Borders to continue to set the priorities for their neighbourhoods.”
Mr MacAskill added: “I have not made a decision on the shape of reform and I am spending the summer speaking to the police and other stakeholders on the future of our police forces before bringing proposals before Parliament early in the next session.”
While in Galashiels, the minister spoke to community officers at Diamond Cycle Centre, whose owner Steve Diamond donated bikes to allow patrols to take place on two wheels.
And in Selkirk, Mr MacAskill, who gained global recognition for his controversial decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, met offenders and inspected their work at the Haining Estate.
Mr MacAskill said: “All the evidence shows short-term prison sentences simply don’t work for low-level offenders, with three quarters going on to reoffend within two years.
“These tough new community payback orders allow offenders to repay their debt to society while doing some hard work at the same time.”