Scotland politics

Chief of new single Scotland police force to be appointed sooner

Image caption The new Police Service of Scotland is set to come into being in April next year

Scottish ministers are speeding up the appointment of the head of the new national police force, after recommendations from MSPs.

Holyrood's justice committee said the post, along with the job of running a single fire service, should be filled as soon as possible.

It also asked for clarity on the scale of civilian job cuts under the plans.

The government wants to merge regional operations to save cash without compromising frontline services.

The proposals in the Police and Fire Reform Bill, which is currently going through parliament, are backed by all the main parties, apart from the Liberal Democrats.

They were brought forward amid the public spending squeeze, under First Minister Alex Salmond's plan to put "bobbies before boundaries".

Ministers are now making moves to see the two new national chiefs in place in the autumn, rather than the end of this year.

The cross-party justice committee, which has been scrutinising the bill, made its recommendations in a report on the bill .

Convener, SNP MSP Christine Grahame, said: "What came over loud and clear from the vast majority of witnesses from the services was the need to appoint a chief constable and chief fire officer as soon as possible.

"Day one of the new national service is 1 April next year and an appointment date of December 2012 will not give enough time for the new heads to prepare for it."

The committee also said the government needed to clarify the impact of civilian redundancies, which would come about from merging Scotland's eight police forces and network of fire and rescue services.

MSPs also pointed to concerns that projected jobs cuts and savings could not be made as soon as they were being expected.

The Scottish government welcomed the committee's report.

A spokesman added: "We agree with the committee that the chief constable and chief fire officer should be appointed as early as possible - we are working to achieve this.

"Subject to parliamentary approval of the relevant primary and secondary legislation, the process for recruiting the chair of the boards and the chief officers will start in the summer and we expect all to be in place in the autumn."

Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House is seen as a front runner for the new top police job - although Grampian chief Colin McKerracher, who previously outlined concerns about a national force, has expressed an interest in the post.

The new interim police HQ will at the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan, in Fife, and the unitary fire HQ will be at Perth Community Fire Station.

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