Reacting to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's announcement today that Police Scotland will now be exempt from paying VAT - an annual windfall of £35 million - Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone has called on the Scottish Government to instruct Police Scotland to scrap plans to close its Inverness call centre.
Speaking in Westminster, Mr Stone said: "The Chancellor's VAT announcement is most welcome - and now it is time for the Scottish Government to take the opportunity and put a stop to a proposal that is a huge concern to people in the north of Scotland.
“A local call centre based in Inverness is essential to proper policing. When a crime or an accident is reported, local knowledge at the other end of the line makes the difference between swift and proper action - or mistakes that could lead to disaster.
“We have a place called Tain in Easter Ross, and also one in Caithness - the same is true of Milton and Inver - and this is to name but three place names in the Highlands. So it is easy to see how a call centre operator based in the south, and lacking local knowledge, could be bamboozled and end up sending police and emergency services to the wrong location.
“The Scottish Government has the power to instruct Police Scotland to recognise a deep public concern and take appropriate action. This is the case with their proposal to close the Inverness call centre in the New Year. The Chancellor has effectively given Police Scotland an extra £35 million each year - and some of this cash should be used to save the centre and put this wretched proposal in the bin."