South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has slammed plans by Police Scotland to axe a police surveillance unit based in Dumfries and Galloway, and move the posts to the central belt.

According to media reports, the local unit is to be wound up, even though their role includes monitoring organised crime gangs entering Scotland from England via the M74 and from Northern Ireland through the ferry ports at Cainryan.

Colin Smyth will be demanding answers on this worrying development from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday as part of First Minister’s Questions.

The news comes at a time official figures show that Dumfries and Galloway is the worst rural region in Scotland for drug-related crime. According to the Government’s own report there were 1,388 cases in 2018/19, a rate of 93.3 per 10,000 residents. In the previous year that figure was 1,179, a rate of 79 per 10,000.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “This is a shocking development and will have a huge impact on tackling crime in Dumfries and Galloway, and further afield.

“The Police Scotland surveillance team based in Dumfries has been a vital tool in tackling organised crime and is particularly important because it covers two key gateways into Scotland, the M74, a main route for drugs coming north, and the Port of Cairnryan near Stranraer.

“This is yet another shameful example of the growing centralisation of Police Scotland which I have repeatedly warned against and another blow to local policing. The movement of specialist police officers out of areas like Dumfries and Galloway and into the central belt is not only a loss a jobs from a local area utterly forgotten about by this Government, it has an enormous impact on the safety of my constituents.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to realise that its constant centralisation is putting lives at risk. The message they send to young people in our region is that if you want a career in Police Scotland you need to move to the cities.

“I will be demanding answers about this from the First Minister on Thursday in the Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Questions.”

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