Police accused of ‘washing their hands’ of traffic role

Police Scotland are walking away from traffic management at public events
Police Scotland are walking away from traffic management at public events

Furious council officials blasted Police Scotland this week claiming the force had “washed its hands” of its responsibilities.

Administration councillors made their feelings clear at a meeting of Falkirk Council’s executive committee on Tuesday.

They responded angrily to Police Scotland’s announcement it is not going to be carrying out traffic management duties at community events like gala days in the future – claiming it did not have the authority to enforce the law at such events.

The move means responsibility for traffic management now falls on event organisers themselves.

The Police Scotland letter, dated April 22 this year, stated: “It is acknowledged that previously police officers may have assisted organisers of such events by closing off roads, controlling traffic and generally ensuring the safety of the public for the duration of an event.

“This appears to have been done on goodwill and on an informal basis but without authority. Police Scotland has no desire to jeopardise the future of community events, but responsibility and activity must be restricted to and in keeping with the limitations of current legislation.”

Councillor Dennis Goldie said it was the most “astonishing” thing he had ever heard in connection with policing.

He said: “In this society the rule of law must not be broken. Here we have the police saying all of a sudden they have discovered they don’t have the power to stop traffic going down a road.

“That statement will astonish anyone who hears it. Does that mean they have been acting outwith the law when they stopped someone before? I cannot accept they don’t have the legal right to do this.

“There is something very wrong with Police Scotland – not with the officers who patrol our streets. We are right to criticise people when they do something wrong and the Scottish Government made a huge mistake with Police Scotland.”

Councillor Gerry Goldie said the announcement was “farcical” and Police Scotland seemed to be “passing the buck”.

He added: “I think this must be driven by budgets. I’m amazed someone has dreamed up the police don’t have powers to actually stop traffic going down a road. Does that mean anyone who has been stopped by police in the past can now make a claim against them?”

Councillor Gow said: “Did Police Scotland consult with local authorities on any level about this? It sounds to me like the police are washing their hands of this.”

Councillor David Alexander responded: “The police are looking to ensure their resources are prioritised.”

Members heard the police do have authority to manage traffic when a “spontaneous” incident like a road accident happens – but not for pre-planned events.

It was agreed to undertake a review of the council’s approach to these events and issues around costs would also be looked at. For the next six months the authority will not charge applicants the £725 it costs to make a Temporary Traffic Restriction Order (TTRO).

Director of development services Rhona Geisler said: “If the police are not going to regulate the traffic then the organisers have to apply to the council for a TTRO, then they have to have people physically in place to manage the traffic.

“Organisers will be required to provide relevant traffic management on the ground to ensure safety. Police Scotland will still have a presence at big events but they will only be there for the purpose of managing public order.”