Public confidence in Police Scotland is “unravelling” following the deaths of a couple who lay in a crashed car for three days, Labour has said amid a fresh slew of allegations that officers and emergency call handlers are struggling to cope with their duties. Hugh Henry, the party’s justice spokesman, claimed the force is “in crisis” and there was a “trinity of failure” comprising the Scottish Government, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Sir Stephen House, the Chief Constable.
He highlighted the anonymous testimony of an officer with more than 20 years’ experience, who alleged that there was a backlog of 10,000 reports from the call centre that received the call about the fatal crash on the morning it happened.
The officer told the Sunday Mail that said experienced civilian staff have left the Bilston Glen call handling centre and have been replaced with police officers. Opposition parties have previously warned this would be a consequence of the SNP’s pledge to employ 1,000 extra officers.
He said the veteran sergeant who took the fatal crash call was not trained to use the computer system that logged calls and wrote down the information on a piece of paper passed to someone else.
His allegations emerged as official figures showed Police Scotland staff have been off work with stress for 53,000 days over the past two years. Two-thirds of those based at Bilston Glen, in Midlothian, applied for voluntary redundancy before the tragedy.
The SPA, which oversees the force, also came under pressure after it was disclosed they were warned 18 months before the tragedy that reducing the number of call handling centres could lead to the loss of experienced staff.
Meanwhile, more allegations emerged of lengthy delays for officers to respond to calls.