POLICE officers and firefighters have highlighted some benefits as a result of reforms to their services, but they also expressed concerns over “diminishing resources” and low morale, according to a new report.

They gave their views as part of the latest evaluation of Scotland’s single police and fire services, set up in 2013 to protect and improve local services despite financial cuts, create more equal access to specialist units, and strengthen connections with communities.

The evaluation was undertaken by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), ScotCen Social Research and What Works Scotland.

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Their report stated: “From the perspective of local police officers and firefighters, there were positive achievements in relation to improvements in accessing national capacity and specialist expertise.

“There were also strong commitments to partnership working.

“But the perceptions of those involved in the routine delivery of local services was that they are operating with diminishing resources, that work to strengthen connections with communities was often hampered by other organisational pressures, and the reductions in the budgets of other public services sometimes frustrated attempts to work more collaboratively.”

Among police officers, the report uncovered concerns over the visible presence of local officers in communities and “a perception that local resources ... are increasingly stretched over larger geographical areas” as a result of redeployment of some officers to specialist roles and a reduction in civilian staff.

In the fire service, the report found evidence of a perception that the level of local service had been maintained since reform.

However, it noted firefighters had reported feeling stretched as a result of a drop in admin staff and had concerns regarding the centralisation of support services, poor IT and their ability to access some equipment.

Evidence of low morale among frontline staff in both services was also noted, with firefighters in some areas starting to leave after only a few years in the job, citing issues such as increased stress.

Both the police and fire service welcomed the report’s recognition of their achievements so far and acknowledged improvements can still be made.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “Police Scotland has continued to evolve and, as the report recognises, has already begun to address the issues raised in this report through the long-term strategy, Policing 2026.

“We remain committed to listening and working with all communities to improve the delivery of local policing across Scotland.”

A spokeswoman for the police oversight body, the Scottish Police Authority, said: “While the report looks back at earlier experiences of reform, it identifies learning points that remain relevant and valid today and which have been acknowledged, and are being addressed, by the SPA and Police Scotland.

“We are alive to the need to address any perception that local, frontline policing has diminished.”

Diane Vincent, of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), said: “We are now looking at how the SFRS needs to develop to meet the new and emerging risks facing Scotland and we will work with our people to ensure they have a voice and help to directly shape a shared vision for a service of the future.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said while both services are already taking action on many of the areas of improvement, “they will reflect further to ensure they remain well-placed to keep Scotland safe from crime, accidents and other harm”.