POLICE Scotland have been accused of “irresponsible” behaviour – after dropping safety equipment designed to save people from drowning.
Last month the force announced it would no longer be storing “throw lines” in its patrol cars.
The kits are used by officers to pull people from water when they are in trouble – also containing a life vest and a whistle.
But now a backlash and waves of harsh criticism have forced bosses to review their decision.
Police Scotland’s health and safety board recently made the decision to pull the life-saving kit from patrol cars across the country.
But as the decision became known to frontline officers, sources say many expressed alarm at the possible consequences in emergency situations.
Although water rescues are also attended by the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), police are often the first on scene – making the “throw lines” crucial.
Critics inside the force say that the decision could leave officers powerless in life-and-death situations.
A police source has also claimed that the kits cost just £100 each – and it is likely they have been dropped as a part of cost-cutting measures by the cash-strapped force.
Now – in response to the concern – the decision to cut the kits has been pushed back,
Labour MSP Elaine Murray said: “I was very concerned to hear from officers that they had been told they would not be carrying the safety kits.
“I was concerned as officers are often first of the scene at these incidents. I welcome that Police Scotland is reviewing this, but I still question the decision in the first place.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont added: “We know that Police Scotland’s top brass have a fleet of designer cars at their disposal, despite the budgetary pressures faced by the single force.
“Withdrawing something that could potentially save lives because of ‘cost savings’ seems downright irresponsible.
“At a time when public confidence is at an all-time low in Scotland’s policing, the single force needs to get its priorities straight.”
John Gillies, director of people and development at Police Scotland confirmed that the force had turned back the decision to drop the kit.
He said: “Following the Health and Safety Board meeting in August it has been agreed that any final decision on the use of throw lines is deferred while we undertake a further review.
“We propose to bring this back to the next Health and Safety Board which will meet before the end of the year.”