Senior police probed over Argyll and Bute merger plans

Police Scotland is proposing to merge its L and K divisions - the former covering Argyll, Bute and West Dunbartonshire and the latter Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.
Police Scotland is proposing to merge its L and K divisions - the former covering Argyll, Bute and West Dunbartonshire and the latter Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

Police Scotland came under fire from politicians and members of the public on Monday over plans to merge the policing division which covers Argyll and Bute with one of its urban neighbours.

Chief Superintendents Helen Swann and Jim Downie hosted a Twitter conversation, using the hashtag #CommanderChat, to answer questions on proposals which would see the Argyll, Bute and West Dunbartonshire division merged with that which covers Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

Mr Downie insisted that the proposal was “the best way forward for local communities and local policing”, while both officers stated that the proposal would mean “fewer bosses, more cops on the street”.

Ms Swann said the force’s two area commanders in Argyll and Bute would remain in post as a result of the restructuring, echoing the pledge made by one of those two commanders - Chief Inspector Gary Stitt, who covers Bute and Cowal - at Bute Community Council recently that the proposal would have no impact on the police presence on the island.

Probably the most dogged pursuer during the course of the chat was Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for West Dunbartonshire, who questioned what she said was the force’s failure to publish consultation responses and lack of answers to Freedom of Information requests, and asked more than once about officer numbers before and after the proposed merger.

On the latter point Ms Baillie was told Police Scotland was “still working to evaluate monetary value of all potential savings including reduction [of] senior officers & mid managers”.