MSP blasts proposal

Melrose Police Station.
Melrose Police Station.

A Borders MSP has said council staff acting as the first point of contact for police matters would be a ‘second rate service’.

John Lamont made the comment in response to the council’s suggestion to the area’s police commander that staff working in contact centres where police counters are to close could deal with residents trying to get assistance.

Police counters are set to close in Selkirk, Melrose, Lauder, Coldstream and Eyemouth.

A council spokesman said: “Scottish Borders Council thinks there is an opportunity to look at the possibilities for the public reporting of matters that need police assistance through council contact centres and other partner public outlets.

“To this end, a working paper is being prepared in close co-operation with the police services that will look at possible options.”

With no council contact centres in either Lauder or Melrose, it is not yet clear what service, if any, could be provided in these towns.

Mr Lamont said: “This move really does show that the SNP are at sixes and sevens when it comes to this issue.

“While the SNP have backed the closure of our police counters at Holyrood, this shows the SNP-led administration at the council is willing to acknowledge that they are a service worth saving.”

He added: “Most Borderers have realised from the off that this is a bad idea, and any attempt to create a second rate service in another location will not be sufficient.”

The Conservative MSP said: “The reason Police Scotland suggested these proposals was to save money, so if this move ends up costing the council money it will either negate the savings made or result in a cut for other council services.”

But, Conservative councillor Michelle Ballantyne has welcomed the suggestion.

She said: “I think it is an excellent idea in principle, because some people find it very difficult when they can’t speak face -to-face with someone and find going through the phone line system very difficult too.”

However, Mrs Ballantyne added: “If you get very distressed people turning up at contact centres the staff will have to be prepared to deal with that and be able to get a response from the police.

“We need to make absolutely sure staff have adequate training, knowledge, and contact numbers for the police.”

Chief Supt McDiarmid said: “Police Scotland welcome the proposals offered by Scottish Borders Council and look forward to further engagement with a view to coming to an acceptable solution which is acceptable to both partners, whilst ultimately benefiting communities.”