Police Federation calls for immediate closure of Argyll stations

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Argyll and Bute police officers have been forced to salvage office chairs out of dumpsters to replace the broken ones at their crumbling station.

A catalogue of horrifying discoveries was made by the Scottish Police Federation, which carried out inspections at police stations and officer accommodation in Argyll and Bute.

As well as ‘skip diving’, officials found that officers at Oban Police Station had begun covering numerous holes in the building’s damp walls with sheets of paper to try improve its appearance.

Paintwork in the food preparation area, which is used for those in custody and for officers, was found to be covered in mould and flaking off the walls.

Numerous ‘ligature points’ were also identified within the cell area which has raised fears of individuals in custody causing harm to themselves.

The victim interview suit at the station was also found to be ‘neglected’ and in complete disarray.

The ‘deep dive’ inspection of L Division, which also covers West Dunbartonshire, was organised earlier this month after numerous concerns were raised by police officers.

Officer accommodation, which is rented out by the SPA, was also inspected and found be in a poor condition similar to that ‘supplied by slum landlords’.

Mushrooms were found growing on towels in the shower room and on various fabrics which had been used to try mop up water leaking from several radiators.

Firefighting equipment within the male accommodation, known as ‘the barracks’ in Dunoon, was also identified as being out of date.

The report said: ‘Almost every radiator in the building was either leaking or did not produce any heat, leading to sodden carpets and mould.

‘A condition of the lease is that the SPA will maintain the residence in a good and reasonable state of repair. This has demonstrably not been done.

‘The male barracks were closed immediately upon concerns of the SPF being raised. That being said, the female barracks were in only marginally better condition.’

The report claimed that the SPA had applied for Dunoon barracks to register as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) but that it had been unsuccessful due to the poor standard of the accommodation.

Similar concerns about the state of officer accommodation was also raised in Campbeltown, where officers claimed they had been advised to declare themselves homeless in order to get priority on the council housing list.

Meanwhile, the police station at Lochgilphead was found to have a rat infestation which has continued despite the issue being raised by the SPF in 2017.

Officers told how they were reluctant to drink from the water supply or eat within the building and could hear the rodents scurrying about in the walls and ceilings despite pest control previously carrying out extermination work.

Issues with the vehicle fleet in L Division were also identified with officers from the rape unit and domestic abuse unit in Clydebank forced to share just two cars between 10 staff.

One officer claimed he had been dropped off at a victim’s house before the woman had to drive him back to the station as no alternative was available.

The Offender Management Unit has access to only one dedicated vehicle which they have to use to monitor over 100 registered sex offenders in the community.

The report added: ‘Quite simply, this presents considerable risk for the Police Service of Scotland and the wider public.’

The SPF is now calling for the SPA to immediately close Oban and Lochgilphead police stations which they believe are not fit for purpose.

They are also urging the authority to shut the accommodation in Dunoon, Campbeltown and Lochgilphead, and to find officers suitable housing in the meantime.

Michael Russell SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute called the report ‘very worrying’ and called for an urgent response from Police Scotland.

‘It is shocking that the Oban Police Station has been allowed to deteriorate in this way,’ he added.

‘There needs to be a clear, urgent, plan for something new and clear urgent action to make it happen.’

Responding to the concerns yesterday afternoon Police Scotland’s Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: ‘Work was undertaken immediately to remedy a number of concerns raised by the Scottish Police Federation last week, as the safety and wellbeing of our staff is a priority for Police Scotland.

‘A small number of officers affected by property issues raised in Dunoon have already been moved to temporary accommodation while improvement works are carried out.

‘A range of options for Oban Police Station are being examined following HMICS recommendations last year.

‘The policing estate has been built up over the last century and we acknowledge some buildings fail to match current or future needs.

‘We are prioritising the capital budget we have been allocated across a multitude of competing demands to achieve as much as we can, as quickly as we can.’

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson described the report as ‘absolutely damning’.

‘It confirms what officers have been saying for a number of years about the disgraceful conditions they are having to work in,’ he added.

‘Police Scotland has one of the lowest proportional capital spending budgets for the whole of the UK. You can’t keep communities safe on the cheap.

‘The Justice Secretary must, as a matter of urgency, investigate these findings and ensure our hardworking police officers are given the resources they need.’

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr added: ‘It’s a disgrace that hard-working police officers have to operate in an environment like this.

‘The chronic lack of resources provided by the SNP government not only puts the public at risk, but harms the good work being done by frontline officers.’