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Policing

Part of Opposition Day — [9th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:44 pm on 4th November 2015.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip 5:44 pm, 4th November 2015

Any force can have issues at any time. That was a tragic incident and I know there has been consideration of exactly how that happened, but such things happen regardless of where they are. Why include these references in the motion? It talks of the Scottish Government’s oversight, but if we listened to Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament, we would often be forgiven for thinking that they were asking for direct political intervention in the management of the police rather than any kind of oversight. That is not what anybody in this Chamber would want.

I want to pick up on the point about oversight, as I have a particular situation locally. Immediately before I was elected to this Chamber, I was the leader of Midlothian Council, and I have been a councillor there for 10 years. I saw how the council interacted with the police services pre-Police Scotland and post-Police Scotland. Pre-Police Scotland, Midlothian Council had two representatives to scrutinise police activity locally. They tended to be from the administration and, up until 2012, that was always the Labour party, so I, as a local elected member, had no oversight of the police in my local area. When Police Scotland took over, a local safer communities board was established in Midlothian that allowed members of the council across the political board to have direct interaction with the police and a direct say in the local policing plan. It is deeply unfortunate that today’s Labour motion criticises the Scottish Government’s oversight when the Labour party in Midlothian is the only Labour party in the whole of Scotland not to participate in the safer communities board to oversee local police operations. From my point of view, it is hypocritical for Labour to be saying anything about oversight of the police when a local Labour party will have nothing to do with the oversight of police and fire services.

Let me move on. The cuts to police services are tragic and, because of the Barnett consequentials, they filter through to Scotland. We need to ensure that we do everything we possibly can to maximise investment in policing so that we can continue to maintain the lowest crime levels we have seen in more than 40 years and to make the improvements we have seen across the country. If the Government would take just one more look at VAT, that would enable us in Scotland to make some of the changes we need to continue the progress we have made.

When I look at this motion, I cannot help thinking that somebody on the Labour Benches looked at a previously drafted motion and said, “Hang on a minute. We haven’t mentioned Scotland, so we need to do so.” It has ended up looking like a typical example of the Labour party saying, “#SNP bad.” The section about Scotland makes no sense at all in the context of the rest of motion. Had it not been included, I can see myself supporting the motion. Why has Labour included it? Was it simply to make SNP Members vote against it? It is utterly bizarre. This is a strange situation to find ourselves in, and it is really sad that it has come to this on such an important issue.